The SAD Project – Day 25 – Ziggurat

Here we go, back in the saddle again. Choo choo.

The rather surprising winner of the assorted sampling of games I’ve tried over the last few days – as in, I’m opting to rev it up and take it for a spin over the others – is Ziggurat.


Ziggurat is a first-person roguelike shooter somewhat reminiscent of Hexen, between its fantasy setting where you shoot wands and spells and staves instead of guns and its fast-paced oldschool run and gun gameplay where sprinting and strafing in circles take precedence over ducking from cover-to-cover.

It has fancier graphics than those FPSes of yore, but isn’t above the amusing reference, as seen in this random effect tagged onto a room – “Nostalgia – Big ugly pixels.”


Everything goes pixelated, and for a moment, you’re back in time. Not to mention, struggling a bit to focus to kill enemies with the unexpectedly incremental difficulty.


Usually, it’s a little more pleasing on the eye to look at.

The roguelike component comes in with randomized rooms, somewhat randomized enemies (easier types of enemies appear near the start of the game, harder ones show up as you near the final boss), and a bunch of random weapons and skill perks and room complications.

Bad randomization can easily make for a nonsensical and/or unfair roguelike, but Ziggurat seems to have found an intriguing balance that makes the game far more addicting than I first would have imagined.

On normal (read: roguelike hard) difficulty, I don’t tend to last long beyond the first or second level, sacrificing scores of characters to the permadeath roguelike gods, but each failed run somehow tempts me to try again.

On my ninth run, I swapped it to easy difficulty (read: probably normal mode for more casual gamers) and managed to get all the way to the fifth floor and the final boss with not too much problems. It felt almost a little cheaty. That feeling kinda went away after I used the wrong strategy on the last boss and frittered away too much health to outlast it for a win.

It’s possible that the next easy run I do might result in victory, but I find the normal difficulty a little more addictive in terms of posing an almost-but-not-quite challenge.

Kill you it might, but Ziggurat feels fair, on the whole. The enemy types are plentiful and varied, and they follow set, if complex, patterns. They trip you up easily when they start to gather up en masse, but there’s always the feeling that you could get the hang of their patterns, or just stumble onto a good strategy of taking care of them without taking damage – if only you could just move in a certain way, with a certain timing, or figure out which specialized weapon to use for the job.


Carrots (yes, there are demonic carrots in this game) tend to run straight at you and start gnawing painfully at your ankles. So it’s in your best interests to backpedal and shoot them from range, hopefully before they come within melee reach.

Except when they become larger glowing acidic carrots, that explode into acidic puddles as they die. And now you’ve got to think about having enough room behind you, or space to maneuver to avoid the puddles.

At the end of each short randomized dungeon, lies a boss that is also picked from a random table. Yikes. Yet another set of patterns to figure out. Yet another temptation to keep playing when one inevitably dies and has to start over, and see a new yet familiar sequence of gameplay.

Old Dog, New Tricks

Been nearly a week, and no screenshot. Yep, I’m aware.

I’ve just been mulling on the seed of a post and thinking, and thinking, and thinking more deep thoughts without the discipline to sit down and work my way through it in writing.

Obviously, that changes today.

See, it kinda starts like this: The Steam sales begin. Usually, this is a cause for celebration and a little unbridled overspending and fond dreams of being able to play all the things.

For some strange reason, this does not happen.

Instead, I end up feeling a sort of existential dread at the contemplation of picking up -more- games, which would be unfamiliar to me and require learning whole new control schemes, game strategies, lore and trivia, whatever else there is.

Total War: Warhammer’s various DLC calls to me, because all the new races look cool. I fully intend to pick up some spendthrifty version of Total War: Warhammer 2, because I am a lizardman fanatic.

And yet, and yet, it strikes me that I would have to re-learn the immensely obscure Total War unit control commands, before I can get close to any sense of enjoyment out of the game again.

Ditto Mordheim. It’s on 75% off. This is my usual Steam sweet spot price point for anything I want that is $10 or less. And yet, for a couple of days, I held back on the urge to pick it up because, “Eh, I’d have to spend a few hours learning the precise rules/strategy/mechanisms governing however the game’s apparently quite hostile RNG worked.”

I managed with Blood Bowl a ways back because once upon a time, long long ago, I read the actual Blood Bowl miniatures paper rulebook cover to cover a number of times, perused the Living rulebook in digital form now and then, and by the time it came down to playing the computer game, it was mostly dredging up from the old synapses vaguely familiar rule memories.

I entertained vague ambitions of playing Dota 2 at a presentable enough level to be able to better appreciate the spectacle sport of the International every year. Didn’t quite happen.

Having never quite developed gaming reflexes via the RTS route, my mouse click control scheme dexterity wasn’t quite cutting it, on a fairly basic level being able to move my character out of range as fast as I wanted or turn on a dime, or even just to keep moving. The prospect of practicing enough to get up to an acceptable level to enjoy the game was not an appealing one.

On a sort of general malaise level, this pall of despair afflicted me for the past couple of days.

It seemed easier to fall back on “games” of incrementing numbers.

Just log back on to GW2, bring out the WvW thief that has reached a “not 100% horrible” standard of passable (win a few, lose a few, stealth away from most). tap a few dolyaks, take a few supply camps, and then watch the pips keep rising every five minutes until the target number for the week is reached.

Pop on to Pokemon Go, catch a pokemon here and there (+ X pokemons), spin some stops (+ Y items), try to stay in a gym for intervals of 10 minutes (+ Z coins), do a free raid pokemon daily (+ X special pokemon, +Y special items), unsoweiter.

Spin up Dragonvale on the iPad, and go on a finger-touching frenzy collecting coins to increment more numbers.

Spin up Crusaders of the Lost Idols on Steam and just idle away to collect more and more gold, click here and there to increment DPS numbers and let it autorun to higher and higher levels that let you collect more and more gold… until you plateau and decide to press the big red reset button…in order to do it all again, just a little bit differently.

Yet at the same time, the black despair made itself known. “Seriously?! This is your definition of “game-playing” now?” it seemed to say. “Why is the prospect of learning something new so depressing, all of a sudden? Why does it appear so difficult to contemplate doing?”

For the past few days, I have felt in somewhat kindred spirit to a subset of players, some of whom I used to know when playing MUDs. They’d profess to be bored of the one MUD they were playing, but when it was suggested to them to try other MUDs, all they really wanted to do was find MUDs that were just like the old one, the same underlying systems they were familiar with, that they didn’t have to relearn, just with a different wrapper.

My problem, of course, is that I’m not exactly like them and I don’t want to play the same games with different wrappers. That’ll be too easy. That’s like just start playing all the WoW clones one by one, or something.

I want to be playing different games with different wrappers.

I just feel like I have no time to actually spare to learn to play all these different games.

Especially when I have already comfortably learned how to play a bunch of games, all of which are depth monsters in their own right when it comes to learning enough to “be good” or “be expert” at them. (e.g. *cough* GW2, modded Minecraft, Path of Exile *cough*) not to mention, pretty durned grindy (but in the desirably repetitious sense, just alas, time-consuming) if you get caught up in the core gameplay loops.

I didn’t actually reach any kind of satisfactory conclusion to this brooding.

All I did was let go of the reins of my wallet, picking up Mordheim, Stories: The Path of Destinies, Battlevoid: Harbinger (this one was a random on-a-whim experimental cheap purchase) and Shardlight.

Then I just installed them and a couple of others I’d been intending to get around to try, and “played” them for the space of a half hour here and there.

Some were easier to grasp than others, so it wasn’t all like the despair was suggesting, aka the “why bother to even start” kind of feeling.

Some were most definitely not easy-to-grasp. *cough Mordheim cough*

“Playing” that mostly comprised of diving head first into a campaign, clicking past screens of gobbledygook that was probably going to be important when actually serious about strategy, wandering aimlessly for about four turns, stumbling one or two guys into an enemy team that surrounded them and was patently going to beat them up (and by extension, the rest of my team because they would then be outnumbered, with a clueless boss of a player controlling their moves) and wussing out to “play through” the basic combat tutorial and realizing, “oh my god, there are more tutorials to go through that -would- be important to learn, but definitely, not tonight.”

I guess it’s a phase that I’m just going to have to give time and space to pass through.

In the meantime, I guess the Steam collection just incremented by a couple more numbers, so even if they never get played in the future beyond this, that’s -another- kind of a game too.

The SAD Project – Day 23 – Wurm Observation


While the above is not strictly a screenshot, I am pretty durned thrilled that my Reaper Bones Kickstarter 3 miniatures have arrived safe and sound.

Taking up a hefty chunk of decorative space on my desk is Goremaw, a worm creature a little bit taller and considerably weightier than a computer mouse.

When I first saw it, I immediately wanted it because that’s pretty much the closest I’m ever going to get to a jungle wurm model like Josh Foreman‘s.

Reaper Mini’s worm mandibles are more claw-like, while the GW2 jungle wurm is more petal-like, but well, they gotta be different enough to not get sued by either party.

It’s a worm/wurm that towers over people. It’s got scales and spikes. Close enough. I’m happy.

The big dilemma now, when I eventually get off my arse and look for my mini paints and enough time to do so, is what color scheme to paint this beaut in.

Fortunately GW2 has miniatures of all three triple trouble wurms, so I logged in to do a close screenshot study of the models (with some color correction in Photoshop.)







I dunno. I can’t decide. Maybe I’ll have to try and figure out how to blend the parts I like of each.



The SAD Project – Day 22 – Boing


Weekday nights in non-NA primetime are, as expected in this week’s matchup, pretty deserted.

Not quite deserted enough for the Outmanned buff though, which is more than a little odd, considering the huge orange blob of dots I saw outside the nearest tower to our spawn in one BL. The buff kept flickering on and off, as if trying to decide to award it or no. Mostly, it was no, today.

I find I quite like the Desert Borderlands as a defender/roamer. The shrine mechanic rewards the defender quite significantly if they can maintain territorial control of the shrines of their keep.

I’m more used to both air and fire shrine effects, so since we were red team in this desert BL for once, I spent some time getting used to the effects of the earth shrines.

The asura launchpads for holding all three of them are quite fun to play with.

Also useful in the sense that it can both enable fairly quick travel across vast distances, and I presume (but am not sure) that while spinning around in the air, you should be able to see any enemies in the vicinity of the earth keep.

The launchpads land you directly in the vicinity of each shrine, so it is conceivable that an enterprising defender can monitor and maintain the asura launchpad network by saving the shrines (assuming not overrun by shrine attackers.)

I was taking my hastily refurbished thief out for a spin, and unabashedly surprised a mesmer taking on a ton of earth elementals and downed it.

Unfortunately, right after that, came another blue dot while I was busy chilling in the sandstorm, bathing in the asura lodestone that gave protection and stability, gloating at my newfound successful thiefysneakybastardness.

I stared for what seemed like 15 seconds at the new guild tag, wondering, “huh, that seems different from the mesmer I downed…” before realizing, “it -is- different. That’s a new guy up there that has cleared the elementals and is already cycling the control point. Oh shit, are my cooldowns even back yet…”

I ran up there, half in a panic, barely coordinating my intended stealth attacks. The surprise factor actually equaled another successfully downed tempest, but then YET ANOTHER blue dot jumped down and started to try and rez the tempest.

I went into stealth, thinking either I needed to stealth and whack the tempest dead, or stealth attack the second guy, and hadn’t quite decided on either when the shrine flipped on me because DUH, I’d gone into stealth and stopped contesting the control point.

Well, fuck me. Now there’s a veteran elemental friendly to their team, the second guy, AND the first guy that he has now rezzed.

NOPE. Chucked down a shadow refuge and noped right on out of there.

Welp, you live and you learn.

Fortunately, on a thief, you can do the former quite a bit more easily than a number of other classes I can think of.