Thermal Management Challenge aka Why I Haven’t Been Blogging Lately

Regular readers (all ten of them? am I being optimistic?) might have noticed a sudden textual silence from this tiny corner of the interwebs.

The family and I are *crosses fingers* still doing fine, still sheltering from the pandemic, still getting needles in arms as soon as we can get them, and hope to stay that way, god(s) and fate and whatever-you-believe-in willing.

No, the main trouble has been the lack of regular maintenance causing random things to fall apart around the house and a general reluctance to invite in outsider repairmen to breach the Covid “bubble” unless it’s a true emergency.

Especially since our local government has been leaning towards the more laissez-faire end of the scale lately to bolster those who have been suffering economically and mental health-wise. Which is all very well and understandable, but our personal situation is that we’ve more potentially vulnerable persons in our household than average, so we’re being more careful than most. So it goes.

One of the latest machine casualties has been the air conditioner in the room housing my PC.

This has been tragic from a temperature management standpoint.

The local outdoors temperature is a toasty average 30-32°C (86-90°F) most days. Humidity runs in the 60s-90s. The equatorial sun blazes down on surrounding concrete walls, which then cheerfully radiate excess heat into the night time hours, causing descriptions of weather and environment to veer away from lovely phrases like “pleasant and balmy” and into “sweltering muggy swamp” territory.

Now, I know that in theory, PCs ought to be able to manage just fine at 60°C and below. For all my fretting, PC temps have only been hovering at 40-59°C regardless… Still, it’s about 10 degrees higher than it normally runs, when in an actually climate-controlled, air-conditioned room. And my PC is seven years old and not getting any younger. AND I need this PC for work-from-home purposes.


Suffice to say, it has been a lot more comfortable for both peace of mind and peace of body to have the PC on, only when needed, for a couple hours at most, preferably at night when ambient temperature drops a few degrees, and not running anything graphically intensive.

I’m sure we’ll eventually get a repairman in, preferably when more family members have been boostered up, but eh, this recent omicron variant news hasn’t done anyone any favors. So it goes. More weeks of this.

The good news is that this has induced some variety into one’s leisure/gaming habits. The portability of the Nintendo Switch and iPad means the ability to retreat to cooler areas of the home, even rooms where the last air conditioners are still functioning (and being conserved like a precious resource.)

Library ebooks are a thing. Youtube on a smart TV is a decent substitute for what usually is playing on one side of the screen while I game on another.

I even got the old Playstation 4 running (last played, 2018) and realized that I might actually get to enjoy some games I’ve been putting off for ages, like Death Stranding. The original hope was to play them in PC form, on a a brand new spankin’ PC, but well, graphics chip shortage and all, we know how those kind of plans have gone this past year. A PS4 version of Death Stranding now… isn’t that old news? And aren’t old games discounted?!

We’ll see. I found a pretty amazing deal from a local online platform this last Black Friday to Cyber Monday weekend, from a vendor that kinda looks legit (as in, officially from the Sony Store), but it did literally say “one copy remaining.” So all manner of things could go wrong, from “oh, we didn’t mean to post it at that price” to “we’re out of stock and can’t find that last copy” to “there is a copy, but the disc is scratched and we can’t replace it so here, have a refund instead.” At which point, I’ll be back to square one on a lack of Death Stranding, but eh, there’s always another sale and another discount. Especially with December on the way.

The one exception to the “let’s not stress the poor, aging PC” rule has been a quick three day push for No Man’s Sky, Expedition 1 Redux.

I bought NMS at the start of November, having a sudden whimsical impulse to fly around in a spaceship sight-seeing and resource-harvesting. It fulfilled that impulse quite respectably. I was making slow and steady progress, 1-2 hours on sporadic cooler nights, before sweat pouring from my brow encouraged me to retreat and let the PC dissipate heat somewhere where I wasn’t.

The most monochromatic planet I’ve seen… so far

Then at the end of November, came the announcement that No Man Sky’s was re-releasing something called Expeditions, for those that missed them. Seeing as I’d only joined this spacefaring cohort at the beginning of the month, I’d definitely missed those.

A brief read suggested that they were basically seasonal special content, where you could unlock rewards. Ah. We’re quite familiar with those. We play GW2, Warframe, Path of Exile and a whole lot of other games with that kind of thing.

These Redux Expeditions were on a two-week time interval, which, to be honest, is my favorite time scale for such seasonal content. Just short enough to kick you in the butt and conquer procrastination and not overstay their welcome, and long enough to not stress out too much if you can’t play for a couple days. As long as all the goals and milestones are scaled for most people to reasonably complete in a week of normal play, then with one extra week’s worth of leeway, it’s Goldilocks just right for me.

Fortunately, the goals for this expedition 1 redux were indeed scaled just right. It felt fairly similar to GW2 achievement tab chasing. Go for easy unlocks on day 1, plan the next sequence of actions to unlock more moderate goals over the subsequent days, clean up on the hardest goals at the end. All in, I got it done in 3-4 days of relatively more hardcore, obsessed play (albeit with periods of surrender to let the PC cool down when it crashed on contact with freighter battles, et. al.)

Huzzah, achievement get!

I’m not 100% convinced that this is a fun way to play No Man’s Sky – I preferred the more relaxed solo pace I was playing at – but I did get a sort of accelerated overview to aspects of No Man’s Sky I hadn’t yet come across in my solo game.

Unlike Aywren, I’m not especially impressed by the intrusion of other players into my peaceful little corner of the galaxy. Particularly when their naming conventions are things like “DarthKiddo’s Planet” and “HA I RENAMED THIS FIRST SO YOU CAN’T.” They make the garbled syllables generated by the base game look good. I’ll take Geistc XVII any day.

Everyone starts at the same point in an expedition game. The starting planet was an Icebound Planet called Keignto Anzai. It sounds fun in theory, have all players begin in a shared space, but y’know, you get the MMO problem, players who don’t know how to roleplay (aka ALL OF THEM) break immersion (in the lore, headcannon sense of the word.)

Then again, when everyone’s starting planet contains interesting fauna like this hopping around… why bother?

I did eventually jump through a black hole, which tossed me some 1 million light years away in goodness-knows-what direction, and a couple more random hyperspace jumps brought me to some pristine undiscovered systems that no one had ventured to yet. There, I got the rest of my goals done in peace and quiet, and set up some tiny bases to bookmark the area, only venturing back to the more littered lands for the Rendezvous Point goals (and boy, were they littered with communication stations, whose only purpose was to state XYZPERSON WAS HERE.)

I’m a little bit nervous to pop back into my solo game now, since installing some patch for Win 7 systems that allowed No Man’s Sky to connect to their discovery servers and get the expedition running. Will my previous systems still be there and untouched, or will I discover to my horror that someone else has been to this part of town and named them all some kind of verbal graffiti? There’s always getting into my spaceship and flying off someplace else, but I’m not sure I can take the dismay. We’ll see.

The PC is always threatening to overheat and there’s always a lot of non-PC things I could be doing instead – especially since I went a bit crazy this Black Friday topping up on discounted iPad, Switch and PS4 games. I can always put it off for later.

The Blogging Month of Love

This is a rhyme about blogging, and nothing else
Get your mind out of the page gutters

Hey guys, are your pens dry?
Any unproductive ladies trying to get by?
I know the best way for the girls and boys to
Come together for some tips and pointers
So you're waiting on the date that's one-a-million?
This conversation ain't the way that you envisioned
You say it's strange, who dares to share their opinions?
On the off-chance it could be something brilliant

They're elegant and eloquent and so entertaining
You, you're over, feeling lower, feverish and straining
Never thought you'd find the one to listen without complaining
Problem is, your brain's firing blanks, so physically draining 
So you're sittin' in your seat without an idea
Do you mind if I text others for some help, my dear?
A little tickle or a talk to know what's trending
I'm just try'na reach some kind of happy ending

So get your hands on the blogging month of love
And pick that cozy little home that you've been dreaming of
If you're cursed with the verse of a lonely man
You can get your juices flowing with some OnlyPens
Every single mind has a need to be heard
So I hope that you can handle 330 words
Get lost in the site as the head expands
Get your lovin' whilst you're bloggin' on with OnlyPlans

I double, triple, quadruple dare any blogger to write new blogging advice they haven’t seen or read or even written before.

UltrViolet – Endgame Viable – “Blogging Pep Talk”

Challenge accepted.

With apologies to The Stupendium’s Vending Machine of Love.

Funny story, I decided to be a Patreon supporter for The Stupendium after enjoying so many of his songs and waffling a long time on the decision, and a couple days later, this was the first, unforgettable song that popped up on his Youtube channel that now had my name in the credits list as a Patreon.

I have never been happier to have my name irrevocably attached to something before.

Steam Summer Sale 2021 Haul

It’s tricky buying games when you’re mostly a patient gamer and have long term committed to a big ol’ Humble Bundle.

Every time you’re tempted, you think, “If I’m not playing this immediately, it is a fact of life that the game will get cheaper over time, improve in quality as bugs gets fixed and DLC gets incorporated into a Special Deluxe Supreme Platinum Complete Gold Enhanced Ultimate Landmark Remastered Definitive Edition of the game.”

So you wait.

After some time, you’re tempted again, and now you think, “Time has passed. Maybe now? But wait! What if it shows up in a bundle? You’ll regret it if you buy it now, forget to play it and then it bundles before you get around to playing it.”

So you wait some more.

Sure enough, most of them bundle. A few stubborn ones teeth gnashingly don’t. Until they do. Or you cave in and get them. And then they do.

It’s especially tricky when you get relentlessly itchy to pick up some bargains because you’ve been feeling deprived for an entire year of mostly being shut in and you’re having SO MUCH FUN flipping through the massive Steam catalog of look-everything’s-discounted-now that it’s pretty much a game in itself.

So you make lists –

Games that sound interesting and would like to keep an eye on but aren’t worth wishlisting yet

Games you’ll be checking in future sales because the discount isn’t there yet and there’s always Black Friday, Halloween and Winter sales

Games you actually own and should really get around to trying or want to revisit again

Games you’re waffling back and forth between PC or console or mobile versions and haven’t quite decided which is cheaper or more enjoyable with keyboard or controller controls or needs to be portable

Games that sound cool but are very much in Early Access and thus may mutate into something more or less cool over time or turn into vaporware

and you strategize and you strategize some more.

Eventually, my mind rationalized that there were certain types of games that were far more unlikely to bundle than not.

  • Really old, super cheap games of under a couple bucks that people would kick up a fuss about for being included because they don’t total up to substantial savings made
  • Really popular games which are still selling well enough standalone where people would -really- kick up a fuss for already owning the dang things already
  • Really niche interest games where most people would go “wtf is this?” if they turned up in a bundle, with the caveat that the most popular and strongest showings might bundle in order to appeal to those who like the niche or to expose a potential new audience to the genre
  • Lone DLC for a specific game, as long as it’s not a super-popular headliner type or part of some Deluxe edition or another

And the above was what wound up making their way into my shopping cart this sales season.

All in all, an excellent haul for roughly the equivalent of a new launch collector’s edition – $111.60 SGD or $82.90 USD.

I have a distinct fondness for two niche game genres – interactive fiction and traditional roguelikes – and those practically never bundle.

Choice of Games is a developer and publisher known for a very specific type of interactive fiction. Their ChoiceScript games keep track of numerical changes in variables and basically allows a player to develop a player character with strong and weak stats, or personality traits on a varying percentage scale. Customized text can then be shown to the player based on these.

Ultimately, it allows for a very specific type of immersion – as mentioned by yours truly in the comments over at Wilhelm’s blog – a tabletop roleplaying style of immersion where you create and design a character in your mind with a distinct personality and then play through an adventure pretending to be said character.

In lieu of a live human GM, the author of the game via programmed computer code takes over that role, providing you with the story, the premise and adventure as well as offering multiple choices at each juncture that will further define and test your character.

It’s a little more railroaded than free-wheeling tabletop RP, of course, but it’s a fun cross between an ebook and a quick adventure, and hey, it’s found on many formats and portable!

Quality of the writing differs from game to game. There are some very strong showings, and some that are not so good. Free demos are always available – on Steam, on their website and on their mobile apps, so it’s a good way to evaluate if one can vibe with the author’s writing style, or if it will make you hurl (figuratively or literally, or your phone or tablet.)

I recently figured out that making an account on their website and asking their customer support to add games bought via various avenues to said account means that you can restore purchases on their mobile stores. This is great because I mostly play via my iPad, but the iOS games rarely ever go on sale. Steam, on the other hand, has sales out the wazoo. So I get to collect and play more games, instead of sighing wistfully and staring and not buying. Win-win.

Vampire: The Masquerade – Night Road is the costliest of the lot, between the brand name royalties and the DLC, at $12.30 SGD or $9.14 USD.

It is one of the better Vampire: The Masquerade games, as opposed to the two visual novels which have shown up in Humble Bundles which I’m still working my way through. It’s more faithful to the lore (5th edition, apparently) and actually treats the vampire Clans in distinctive fashion – the animalistic Gangrel can have a pet companion, the picky noble Ventrue can only drink certain types of blood (e.g. only older men, etc.)

It’s not the best Choice of Games out there, but I’d say it’s above average in writing quality and offers a good length – roughly six mini-adventures before the grand finale.

Fallen Hero: Rebirth is interesting. It’s a Hosted Game, meaning a self-published not established nor given an advance by Choice of Games, so Hosted Games are more of a mixed bag on quality. Some are more middling, but there have been some supremely stellar ones that are evident as labors of love, exceeding your regular contracted Choice of Games author. (A Study in Steampunk – Choice by Gaslight being one of them – great for anyone who enjoys Sherlock Holmes blended with steampunk.)

Fallen Hero: Rebirth is not quite on that level, and ends on a bit of a “to be continued…” note, but is also, I suppose, better than average. What it does well is that it allows you to roleplay a telepathic super-villain who was an ex-hero. It’s a unique angle in a sea of other Choice of Game games that mostly channel you along the superhero path. The story is darker with a touch of bitterness, for those of us who like that sort of thing, and focuses on your relationship with your ex-superhero team. Love interests, old flames, rivals, and so on.

The other unique schtick is telepathy being your superpower, you basically can jump into bodies and minds to influence them – including cultivating a second identity. This is maybe the first Choice of Games I’ve played where you juggle two points of view – one from your ‘real’ body, one from a ‘mask’ body that you’ve taken over and use as a front.

Wayhaven Chronicles: Book One & Book Two are the high water mark recommendations of what I’ve tried so far this sale. Caveat: You have to enjoy urban fantasy, young adult-style romance.

Ostensibly, you play a detective in a small sleepy little town before a murder wrecks your peaceful life and throws you headlong into a spookier supernatural world that you’ve never known about. (Only the theme of about a billion other TV shows and books out there.)

The joy of the Wayhaven Chronicles are the NPC characters of Unit Bravo, a distinctly characterized, wild bunch of vampires that are more or less, forced into working with you that you can develop friendships with and romance. There’s the pragmatic leader type, the friendly people person ideal romantic guy/gal, the wisecracking jokester whom you’ll be hard pressed to ever shut up, and the strong and silent grumpy one. Their interactions with each other and your character are a riot.

I decided to play my character close to Lauren Blackwell in the Blackwell series, a little bit sarcastic and stoic, like every good noir detective and it’s been a blast of a story to play through.

I am pretty sure Jolly Good should come close to the high water mark, just haven’t tried it yet.

It’s basically a sequel to Tally Ho, a rollicking adventure in the style of P. G. Wodehouse where you play a gentleman’s gentleman or lady’s lady (or the other two potential permutations) and try to make everything run smoothly (or not) for your employer through his or her weekend at formidable Aunt Primose’s country manor – fielding everything from their love lives to art thieves and boat races and an exotic animal show.

I’m not even a fan of the genre and setting in general, so it’s a great nod to the author’s strength of writing that I’ve become a fan of the game series.

Zombie Exodus and the Evertree saga are weaker, less compelling writers, comparatively speaking, so I hesitated on completing the whole collection. I mostly picked them up to have a gander at the more ‘game’ like aspects they attempt to simulate. Safe Haven lets you build a safe house in the zombie apocalypse, apparently, so there are clock-like aspects where you may have to select strategic choices to keep your haven safe, and the Evertree saga uses a basic fantasy race/class system (though apparently not explored to its fullest potential.)

I will wax lyrical about Open Sorcery another time. I’ve done it once before, but I feel like I haven’t explained its beauty sufficiently. It’s so easy to dismiss text based games these days, especially bright text on dark black background games that bring to mind the ancient days of DOS, but there is utter poetry in play with this game.

The author, Abigail Corfman, has a knack for succint, lyrical writing. It’s diametrically opposed to my usual wall of text word vomit style. It brings poetry and magic to a compelling world that mixes tech and elemental spirits.

Picking up the sequel, Open Sorcery: Sea++ (haha, pun) was a no-brainer.

We will leave the discussion of traditional roguelikes for another time. Preferably after I’ve played through enough of them to compare and contrast.

Terroir was an odd little game, on heavy discount, apparently made by the same local developers in my country that are creating Chinatown Detective Agency. Support local, I guess. It seems to be a basic winemaking tycoon game. I’m still working out the nuances of how to get a good crop of grapes without utterly ruining them. Hung back on playing it past two hours for fear it might bundle. Guess we’re safe for July now.

Learn Japanese to Survive! Kanji Combat was another heavily discounted “game” that I picked up for collection completeness’ sake. It’s an RPGmaker game, so there is a certain expected structure to it. Basically wander around like a JRPG and do JRPG fights, except you need to match a limited palette of foreign language words and characters in order to win fights. It’s probably not actually going to significantly teach anyone Japanese, but it’s an amusing pasttime to memorize a few words or pronunciations and play through a few fights.

Picked up some DLC for $9.49 USD for games I knew I liked.

The eSports expansion for PC Building Simulator was something I’d had on watch list, and 50% off sounded good. I was having the time of my life with the game last August. The only issue is that it’s a giant disk space hog, and I have much disk space woes, so it’ll take a bit of game shuffling before I can play it.

Finally the trophy lodge DLC for theHunter came down to a price point which I felt comfortable biting, and all my stored trophies could go on display.

Tried first time virtual bow hunting with the bow in the high-tech pack in the Yukon Valley DLC.

It was good fun. Yukon Valley is supposedly one of the easier, more populated parks in theHunter, and it did seem easier to spot a lot of animals. Bow hunting meant I had to creep up a lot closer than I would normally get with a rifle, so there was a lot more tense suspense crawling from tree to tree, through tall grass, hoping to approach to <30m before taking the shot. Not for when I’m in an impatient mood, but in the right open frame of mind, it was fun.

The bulk of the cost came from the big name popular games at $19.75 USD.

Yes, Valheim is in there. *sighs* I played it. I suppose I’ll touch on it in more detail in a future post. Honestly, my first impressions are that it looks pretty, but relies on heavy, heavy grind and tedium to extend its gameplay. It’s compelling in that you feel like there’s always another chore that needs to be done to progress further, so you log in and go do it and end up down a time consuming rabbit hole.

I still fail to see what it does that is so different from other survival game gameplay. (Perhaps multiplayer, I’ll grant it that. Perhaps a straightforward simplicity in presenting game options as unlocked progression without -too- much need to refer to a wiki. It needs another post. Later.)

Confession time: I’ve never played Chrono Trigger. I don’t know why. Just somehow missed the period of its launch. Looking at the dates, it seems it was on consoles at a period where my family just never owned any consoles nor placed any stress on them. So… fixing that lack seems to be a good project to take on in between now and winter sale.

Good haul this season. Between this, Humble Bundle and already existing games that I was reminded I own while browsing the Steam store, I should not lack for entertainment options.

(Not that one was really lacking this pre-haul, but y’know, new shinies! Always better than the old shinies!)

Beginnings, Continuings and Microgoal Endings

A week earlier, this would have been a different blog post. It would have been called “Beginnings and Continuings” and likely wound up an unstructured mess of semi-lamentations about issues commonly faced by video game players and me having run headlong into all of them lately.

First world problems like impulsively buying a bunch of video games on Steam sale and struggling to even start playing all of them. Or accumulating a lineup of games in the process of being played, and having the sneaking, uneasy, growing, doom-laden suspicion that one is never going to actually -finish- any of them but trail off somewhere between the beginning tutorial and the mid-game some place.

But I just couldn’t get started on the blog post. It just bothered me. Too much hanging in limbo like the rest of real life at present. Y’see, stories, articles and yes, even blog posts are supposed to have beginnings, middles and ends.

Video games have beginnings, middles and ends… by design… except that I very well know I don’t have enough free time to see all of them to those ends. Let alone write about them afterwards. And I’m OK with that, theoretically:

On a personal level, I’ve come to terms with taste testing a whole slew of video games. I buy a thousand cheaply, at prices I don’t ever regret if I never get around to playing them. Every so often, I go through a couple hundred and get a sense of them, enough to put a personal score label on them and revisit the ones that become my favorites (score: 9-10), and maybe pop in on the good or great in their own way ones (score: 7-8) now and then. The meh to decent but not really my cup of tea ones rest easy on the virtual Steam shelf (score: 3-6) having been taste tested and contributed to the developing sense of what I like and what I don’t.

Barely any of them get completed, except the ones I really love and/or the short ones, minus those that are essentially forever games, and that’s totally fine. That’s how I roll, and enjoy my video game hobby time.

Except it becomes really impossible to write about, because a shopping list of random games and incoherent, subjective sentences about brief glimpses at a video game do not a blog post make. Not something I can pull off, anyway.

Such a post would probably boil down to banalities like “Fun. Not fun. Liked the aesthetic look of this game. The colors of that game make me want to barf, so I hate it and won’t even give it a chance. Played this till Chapter 2, then stopped – no real reason, really, just haven’t gotten back to it again.”

What changed the course of this blog post was a re-read of “Refuse to Choose!” by Barbara Sher, just to refresh my mind on what people like me, generalist Scanners with a gazillion interests struggling to keep many balls up in the air, could do to deal with this scattered unfocus.

(The re-read is still in progress. Mostly for pep talk reasons. It’s something I’m struggling with lately, being caught in the middle of doing many things, all of them dragging on and me feeling in limbo and unproductive and yet caught by analysis paralysis and the paradox of choice. Too many options, all of them take too long to complete.)

It wasn’t anything really specific from the book per se, but more of an inspired revelation combining bits and pieces from it. One part about getting clear on what you really want out of your interests – the best, most exciting parts that give you good feelings. Another part on being able to declare yourself done with any project at any time with a Scanner’s Finish, aka wrapping up the project in brown paper and putting it on a display shelf, with a note on where you were when you stopped and what the next step would be if attempted again.

It all combined into a way to stop the feeling of endless continuings – the limbo of being “mid-game” in multiple games and never finishing – that I’d somehow gotten stuck into, after indulging my novelty-seeking with all the beginnings I was craving.

That is, I needed to get really clear on what I wanted out of the games that I’d started and was currently in the middle of. And then create my own micro-sized goals to give me what I really wanted. After which, I’d be able to happily declare an end to the game if I wanted, without feeling obliged to keep playing until the actual end.

S’not a new concept by any means. I sort of touched on this lightly way back in 2019. I guess the part about specifically defining the goal of the microexperience to address one’s specific desires is the add-on concept in 2021.

On to the games:

These were the impulse buys of the week. No real reason beyond seeing 60-75% off discounts and having vague urges to taste test them and add ’em to the collection.

Mind you, I was already hip deep in other games.

Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! was chugging along with nary an issue.

I’d progressed to the 7th route, all the way to Houston, Texas, and had only completed 191/387 levels.

Still a long way to go. Still fun in bite-sized pieces.

Not-so-microgoal: Get gold medals in every level.

I had suddenly got bitten by the nostalgia bug and started in on a Nintendo Switch version of Final Fantasy 7.

(The remake is out of the question at the moment. The PS4 has been effectively kidnapped by another family member and it’s in an awkward locale to play comfortably. Let’s not even talk about the PS5. It’s at the same stock and price levels as a fancy RTX graphics card, aka beyond my current willing-to-expend effort and wallet levels.)

Honestly, there’s something pure about the polygons of the original.

The cartoon aspect, the exaggerated body language animations, scrolling text and no voice acting… they all encourage the player to project on and imbue the characters with their own voices, deepening the relationship.

The music in every scene, meanwhile, is the emotional anchor that tells the player how they should feel.

I have no illusions about whether I’ll ever finish this game. I never did as a kid; I got derailed around the you-know-what spoiler area and got frustrated about loss of progress and ended up discovering how to “preview” cutscene videos – including the ending – on the CDs instead. (Ah, those days of CD swapping.)

Microgoal: See if I can play beyond the point where I stopped in my childhood and see a little more “new” content. Currently around Rufus’ Shinra parade.

As if my Nintendo Switch game goals aren’t already big enough, having Hades on the same console risks derailment of the FF7 goal at least 50% of the time, because goshdarnit, I really like action combat.

One more roguelike run is always a thing.

You’d think defeating the big bad 10 times to end the main story is a great ending, but no… the character dialogues are always compelling, there are always new side quests popping up and new reasons to go for one more Underworld run.

Microgoal: Earn 5 diamonds to progress on the Achilles side quest. Earn about 1500+ more Darkness to unlock some other side quest that needs 3600+ darkness currency. (Whenever one has the urge to play, otherwise we’re good.)

These were the assorted game samplings of the past weeks.

Fury Unleashed was not-half bad; a comics-like aesthetic, 2D shooter/platformer roguelike where you played a Rambo-like action hero and shot and bounced your way across comic book-like levels. Personal score: 7 – quite enjoyable, would play again.

Size Matters was an odd, somewhat janky and clunky experience that felt like one of those 3D games cobbled together in Unity. The concept is cute – your avatar is slowly shrinking, and you need to find chemicals, locate recipes, then mix them together using various machines for the cure. Part logic puzzle, part struggle-with-janky-controls-being-part-of-the-game, and part-impromptu-platformer-when-shrunk-and-desperate.

The pacing felt off – the lower difficulties which I tried didn’t feel like the rate of shrinking was urgent enough; and I didn’t dare go for higher difficulties because struggling to platform with clunky controls would be a supremely frustrating experience. Maybe better as a streamer game. Personal score: 5.5 – Meh. It’s OK. Cute enough to try once. I wouldn’t throw a fit if someone made me play it again, but I can easily find more fun things to do.

Yet another attempt at Tyranny. Owned for forever, just can’t quite get anywhere with it. The Baldur’s Gate start and stop combat style of games seem to have been left behind in my past and haven’t quite managed to read up enough about how to not die in combat. The urge to not play is stronger than any pull or push factors to study up on how to enjoy the game enough. I’ve gotten to some Archon’s camp, is about it. Far more interested in the world and the lore – I’d rather read an RPG book on the setting. Score: 8 – I’m sure it’s good, willing to revisit, just not right now.

Had a good couple days with Epic Battle Fantasy 4. It’s a guilty pleasure nostalgia sort of game, I first found the series on one of those Kongregate or Armor Games Flash sites possibly a decade ago and just found it compelling enough to keep playing. A touch of whacky Flash game humor, a hefty helping of JRPG turn-based combat with skills and spells out the wazoo… level up, explore new map screen, fight monsters, level up, rinse, repeat, what’s not to love? Score: 8.5-9 – objectively, it’s probably the lower score, subjectively I love me a purified dose of JRPG monster grind. Would play again.

Started up Cyberpunk 2077 to see if the hotfixes have improved the game any. Was thinking of actually finishing the game and closing the chapter on it, in order to free up valuable hard disk space. Hard to say if there were improvements really. There was some kind of crash error triggered on first starting, but repeat pressing of the “Play” button got it to start as per normal.

I also crashed out as per normal when I tried to stay too long in Quickhack scan mode, but then I read a forum post that it might be a conflict with the TAB key and Steam’s overlay, so I changed the control key and made it a toggle instead of a press-and-hold, and then I didn’t crash.

The city is still lovely. Too lovely for me to ignore and just drive to the next main quest chapter. So I wound up randomly snipering a bunch of gangsters because that was the nearest do-this-thing waypoint on the map while trying to remember how to play. Then my inventory overloaded looting their corpses and I had to hobble to the nearest booth to offload stuff, while still trying to cling on and hoard all the shiny purple weapons weighing me down.

I discovered that I still wanted to clear every last waypoint and refuse to do the main quest just yet; at the same time, the map felt too big to deal with every last waypoint, so I wussed right back out of the game entirely. Guess I have to deal with 60 GB sitting on the hard drive until I can clear up enough concentrated focus to play one primary game over some time. Microgoal: Not now, but maybe clear a map region when you’re in a Cyberpunky mood.

Apparently, the mood of impulse buy week was spaceships.

Bought Battlefleet Gothic Armada 2 for 75% off when I haven’t even installed and played the first game. Just wanted to see spaceships firing off long range laser shots at each other, and some WH40K skins don’t hurt the aesthetic any. Played the tutorial campaign and got a few missions into the first campaign. It’s turning out to be one of those strategy games that may be a bit too smart for me – or at least require me to apply a bit more smarts learning the UI and appropriate strategies than I generally have the patience for.

It is slightly glitchy, or at least I ran into one mission where I failed to move my spaceships near enough to trigger a story progression step, and it wound up making the enemy spaceship unkillable – which was supremely puzzling why I had managed to outnumber and surround it, strip it off its shields, board and kill nearly everyone on board, and bombard the hull to the point of having a sliver of health remaining, and have my tanking spaceship still be steadily getting nickel-and-dimed to a risky point of might-get-destroyed. I finally got curious enough to move my spaceships elsewhere, trigger the required dialogue, and then the enemy ship almost imploded as my ships got back into range. Score: 7.5-8 – I kind of like it, but it’s not a perfectly polished game and it has a learning curve.

The stuck-in-limbo thing is, I don’t know if I have the patience to go very much further. Certainly there are too many campaigns than I’d want to play right now.

Finally decided that what I really wanted out of the game was to see spaceships shooting lasers at each other, so I created a microgoal of set up a custom game with lots of ships and just let the AI go at it. Discovered with some disappointment that only 1 vs 1 was possible, 2 vs 2 required a human player on my team, but just went for it. Leaving autopilot on my ships pretty much meant that they got absolutely destroyed, but hey, I did see lots of spaceships and lots of lasers. And that seems to have gotten most of it out of my system.

New microgoal: Watch a Youtube video or two on actual BFGA2 combat strategies (it basically seems like tallships in space) and decide if it’ll interest you enough to play further, or if we can close the chapter on this game for now.

Bought a discounted Klei bundle out of a sense of collector’s completion.

I was lacking Don’t Starve’s Hamlet DLC and while I wasn’t exactly craving to play Don’t Starve immediately, somehow picking it up for cheap in a bundle with other possibly-interesting stuff down the line seemed about right.

The microgoal was just check Hamlet out in a casual no-wiki-research exploratory run, fully expecting to die fast.

Surprisingly survived a little longer than expected. No real progress though. Had difficulty finding gold to unlock a science machine. Just wandered through the world looking at all the new items and monsters. Watched a pig guard set fire to a clump of tall grasses and suiciding himself while murdering some other monsters in the process. Found the Hamlet city, talked to some shopkeepers who wanted things I didn’t have.

Finally bored, I walked straight into some new ruins with lots of darkness and no real light besides a torch or two, knowing full well I was going to die. Got a few rooms in, found some interesting door/trap button puzzles, was plentifully poisoned by scorpions, and opted to die via a darkness grue than the venom death coming five seconds later.

Mostly confirmed that Don’t Starve is still very much a wiki game. One can get by with a few completely blind runs for fun, but after that, dutifully looking up the wiki and finding out more about each new item encountered will get one a lot longer way in. I’m sure Hamlet’ll be fun to play some time down the line, just not in the mood for it right now.

Yet to explore:

Choices That Matter: And The Sun Went Out – I did a playthrough of it on mobile once. It was very discounted, under two bucks, so might do a repeat run through at some point to see how the story changes.

Hot Lava – part of the Klei bundle, an actual Klei game I didn’t own. The trailer honestly sold the game to me more than the actual game. Literally 80’s cartoon nostalgia.

The game itself looks to be bit of random platforming parkour stuff. Since I’m not playing GW2 lately, I guess I can always give jumping puzzles in another game a go at some point.

Microgoal: Get around to trying them out once.

Starbound. It’s only been sitting in my wishlist for… oh… three years? More?

Stubbornly refused to turn up in a bundle. Haven’t found it on 75% off ever. Finally hit a historical low of 60% off, and I surrendered.

Apparently the mods for this game are pretty good, so I assuaged myself with that excuse while giving the vanilla game a go.

It’s interesting. It’s not quite Terraria in space. There are parts where the scenery is already all pre-built and there are quests and arcade style combat missions and a bit more story than Terraria ever had.

I like that the view is a little more zoomed in than Terraria, so that I don’t have to keep squinting at my character on a large monitor.

Then there are parts that are totally Terraria in space.

There’s maybe more randomization and variety, given that you can fly to different planets with different biomes and difficulty. But you know, procedurally generated stuff might get same-y after some time.

I think it seems a bit more sandbox-y. You could probably divert to making a bunch of buildings and structures and “art” on various planets if you wanted to. You could just follow the given quests and missions for the main story. There’s less of that concentrated linear progression aspect of Terraria.

Combat feels a little bit more clunky than Terraria. Less continuous firing and more measured strikes. Not as fun, in my book.

I’m mostly afraid that my focus will undoubtedly fritter away on games that feel too big and chock full of possibilities. Starbound probably fits in that category. Score: 9 – I like it, would play again, just not sure when.

Microgoal: Go back and pick up all the items that scattered across the landscape where I died to some hostile mobs. Then maybe test run a few side quests like the mech and a penguin fight. Decide after that if I need to tech up and where to build a nice base for doing so. Soon(TM). Might put it off for later, seem to have taste tested it sufficiently for now.

So many games… Are we even done yet?!

Apparently not.

Apparently, all it takes is for someone to mention Monster Hunter (Aywren, in this case), and I start having some recurring thoughts about the franchise. The poke-poke-poke polka has sunk its hooks in me bad.

Not bad enough to buy Iceborne at full price though, so I do still have some grasp on sanity remaining.

Not sure how far that discipline is going to last once the next Steam summer sale rolls around. Maybe if it’s 50% off, I’ll bite, maybe. 60% off, yes, probably.

It’s a big game though. There are 14 weapons. Base Monster Hunter World could last forever at my rate of consumption.

The recurring thought that turned itself into a microgoal was: Learn charge blade. Or at least, enough to smack a few easy monsters around with it at a slightly-beyond-beginner to intermediate level.

So I popped back into MHW and made a basic bone charge blade and upgraded it to the max level I could afford, and then set my sights on a second odogaron charge blade as the next aspirational goal.

Turns out what this means is lots of odogaron hunts, because I lack a bunch of its parts. It is maybe not the best monster for learning charge blade that I could be using. Its quick attacks really wreck and punish my beginner attempts to use the slower axe portion of the weapon, and I have not have had much dodge practice in MHW after so much lancing. I keep wanting to block with my shield, and accidentally transitioning into axe as a result.

Still, the attempt is fun. I’m working on just getting familiar with the phial charging process and the related moves. Charging up the shield is still awkward. It took about 30mins of video study and training room practice to figure out how the eff to charge the sword. So definitely still awkward on that front. But well, that is part of the MHW process.

In the meantime, there is running around and smacking the big red dog on the paw with (occasionally glowy) sword and (occasionally glowy) shield.

You’d think this would be pretty easy, but there is this highly annoying flying B-52 bomber that keeps coming in and hoping to chow down on the dog, and between evading them and letting both angry things duke it out with each other, the fights are still 30-50min long. (I suppose me losing focus and trying to kill the bomber doesn’t help either. I did get it once. That was satisfying.)

I took a break once and just went with lance after odo. That was fun. Totally confirmed that I still have the pokey rhythm down. So in love with the pointy stick. Still.

Microgoals: Get enough odo parts to build Odium. Start looking into more appropriate armor than the Lance focused armor I’ve been using. Hunt monsters appropriately and keep getting familiar with charge blade. Maybe divert to dual blades again at some point.

Looks like the current game poisons of choice are Cook Serve Delicious 3, Final Fantasy 7 and Monster Hunter World.

Starbound and Hades whenever one is in the mood.

A bit of out-of-game research on Battlefleet Gothic, and taste test the as yet unplayed new games Hot Lava and Sun Went Out at some point soon.

Sounds manageable.

Until the next game distraction that suddenly crosses my path.

(X:COM threatens to be that game every now and then, but eh, I have no hard disk space for it, so I’m safe until Cyberpunk gets uninstalled.)

See you again on June 24th when the Steam Summer sale rolls around and wrecks all best laid plans?

Pandemic Ponderings & Bite-Sized Focus: Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?!

So, the pandemic may finally be getting to me.

One is admittedly still extremely fortunate to be spared any significant impact – I’ve been able to work from home for the most part, the family is keeping safe, finances are fine for now and we’re able to have groceries delivered and support some local F&B occasionally.

But there’s something about the juxtaposition of the “almost at the finish line” and “serious calamity situation” stances in different countries and across different peoples’ level of risk and comfort that is doing a number on my brain, the sheer irrationality? or illogic? of trying to synthesize or make sense of it all.

Where I am, our vaccinations are Pfizer/Moderna but still limited in supply. So the age group able to get vaccinated is still 40+ currently, leaving anyone under 40 unprotected for now. Better than no one vaccinated, but not ideal.

What is not so good is that we’ve been catching some spread from the absolute unmitigated disaster that is the B1617.2 variant seemingly rampaging across India.

Vaccinated people are testing COVID-positive also – their symptoms appear to be less severe, but worryingly, their unvaccinated close contacts are catching it too. Even one-year olds. The transmission speed and contagiousness of this variant seems much nastier than the original.

Mind you, masking is mandatory over here, except when eating – which may be where some of the transmission was occurring, in crowded food courts and restaurants – along with possibly home transmission and perhaps less biosafety conscious individuals getting unknowingly careless with their mask routine.

Our nearby countries like Malaysia and Taiwan aren’t doing so hot either.

Singapore finally decided to shut the barn doors a week or two ago and entered yet another creatively named semi-lockdown, aka Phase 2 (Heightened Measures). So far so good, cases are on a downward trend, but we’re not out of the woods yet while the hoi polloi appears to be getting distinctly restless.

It feels somewhat like being suspended in limbo. Our way out is presumably sufficient vaccinations, but production and supply and roll out takes time. I am fine with the holding pattern, but other people are not, and if they go crazy, things can get crazy fast. No one wants swamped healthcare (or at least, I don’t.)

Another neighbor, Australia, is also feeling the pressure of having this thing leak out into their population. Japan is… eh… see-sawing up and down while attempting to be in denial because Olympics. In our part of the world, it feels like warning signs.

Yet, when I pop on over into more Americanized news, I am seeing essentially total victory declared, “take off your masks and celebrate now, folks!”

Look, I get it, your vaccination rate has been super-high, and having already suffered a really bad wave last year, you’ve probably got a lot of people with some antibody protection wandering about, while most of your vulnerable have probably already kicked the bucket. That, and pandemic fatigue and need to get the economy going pushes up tolerance of risk higher.

And “some of you may die, but I am willing to make that sacrifice” is a great, if selfish, argument if the majority of the sufferers are going to be covidiots (as long as we don’t score yet another scarier, mutant variant out of this tactic.)

It just feels really weird that it’s happening at the same time as the river Ganges being flooded with bodies.

Something feels wrong. Off. I don’t know what exactly. Is it premature celebration and there’s hidden B.1617 spread that may wreck havoc in a few months? For America’s sake, I hope not.

Maybe it’s just the inherent imbalance and unfairness of life in different parts of the world that is throwing me off. It’s like things made more sense nearer the start of the pandemic. Most sane people were worried about numbers growing; there was more unity, in a way. Hell is bad, everyone agrees, just not on how close we were to getting there.

Now it’s neither here nor there. We’re in purgatory. Some are convinced we’re going to Heaven now, some are still very much afraid of Hell as a possibility. (Others are, sadly, already in Hell.) It’s just… waiting. Waiting for things to get worse, or things to get better. Debating. Some choosing to go one way, some heading the other. Whoever is right, time will tell.

Maybe there are no right answers, maybe there are multiple solutions.

But we are not there yet.

Whatever we’re doing, it may end up being short term measures. Ease up a bit and relax. If things get bad, adapt, react, apply the brakes once more. If things get better, celebrate even more.

It makes sense. And it doesn’t. Depending on your point of view. And there are thousands of people attempting to make those views known on the internet.

All I know is that my sense-making apparatus is stalling from the juxtaposition, the paradox, the clamor, and has basically erased long-term planning from my vocabulary.

I get by. I do the day-to-day. I try to take pleasure in the small things.

If one day feels bad or not very productive, eh, sleep on it, there’s always tomorrow. Tomorrow, or the day after, one or two more things get done, and that’s a win.

I’ve been trying and failing to make a complete to-do list (aka GTD collection) for the past two weeks now. Just not happening. I’m not too concerned. It’ll happen when it’ll happen.

Individual points are still getting written down on paper scraps. Some of those get whittled down over the days. Some get left for later.

Game-wise, this brain state translates into short-term focus. Bite-sized gaming.

I appear to have glommed onto Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! as the best game out of May’s Humble Bundle Choice for my present state of mind.

Metro Exodus is doubtlessly a good game. It just feels too big to attempt.

Ditto Darksiders Genesis. I want to get the whole Darksiders series played at some point, but the truth of the matter is that I stalled on game 1 some time back on Apr 1 and just haven’t gotten back to it again.

I’ve loved the Cook, Serve, Delicious! series since way back in 2012, having found it on Steam Greenlight before it blew up and got super popular.

Game 3 in the series is a solid offering, providing more of the same frenetic typing game meets cooking game food porn gameplay, with just enough sprinkling of variation to differentiate itself from its predecessors.

Instead of running a restaurant a la the previous games, this time you’re going on a food truck road trip across post-apocalyptic America in the company of two boisterous robots.

There’s a bit more of a story campaign – the main conceit being that you’re trying to travel towards some sort of Iron Chef championship competition, but it mainly serves as a way to fit in 386 levels without one’s head exploding at the thought.

It’s actually quite refreshing, as the levels are interspersed through a number of route stops. Each has a certain food theme, thus limiting the sheer amount of choice paralysis staring at the entire menu, and also forces the player to vary and learn different foods, instead of staying attached to a few tried and true easy options.

The pacing also feels a little different.

In previous games, serving orders followed a simulation of a restaurant’s day-to-day operations. The morning begins and a few orders trickle in. Lunch hour begins and there’s a peak period of hecticness. It trails off into a more relaxed afternoon tea time. Then dinner service starts and it’s all hands, battlestations, go! The second peak period then trails off into a couple of late night suppers and the level ends.

In Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?!, there is a period of prep time as the truck drives to each location, and then a serving period once the truck arrives at its stop. Rinse and repeat for however many stops are in that level (usually 2-5).

Neither period is particularly relaxed by default, just different. Prep time is both for getting recipes that require holding stations cooked, as well as dealing with one batch of special orders that come in for the upcoming stop.

There is a bit of strategic calculation on the fly as you try to get sufficient foods cooked and on standby, so that you aren’t completely swamped on arrival at a locale.

Adding complications are the interruption of special orders arriving on cooking stations on the left – they are a once-off order only – as well as the limited number of holding stations meaning some kind of prioritization is needed.

On certain levels, rival food trucks swing by to destroy a few of your holding stations (even more prioritzation!) or change your route so that the number of Needed orders is no longer relevant.

On arrival, now the juggling act really begins.

Clearing the special orders means a station now open for holding station food orders. Hopefully there are enough. If they sell out, better cook up more, fast!

If a food is available in the holding station, customer patience drains really quickly, so you have to serve them the food fast.

Strangely, though fortunately for our sanity, if a food is cooking in the holding station, the customers are willing to wait until it’s ready. It’s like you pointing out to them that “look, your pie is in the oven, almost done!” and they agreeably hang around.

This willingness to wait means just a couple more precious seconds to serve up some other orders, or cook up other holding station foods in preparation for the next crazy amount of orders swarming in.

New to the game is a “serve all ready foods” button, default CTRL, representing your trusty robot sidekick cleverly delivering everything done and prepared to the customers.

You’ll need it.

Those orders are relentless.

Once a locale is finally empty of (hopefully) satisfied customers having left with their food, the truck starts up and the drive to the next locale begins. Back to prep time and getting those holding station foods sorted out. Rinse and repeat until finally done.

It all adds up to a lot of opportunity to vary difficulty, challenge level and strategies.

If you want something relaxing, perhaps you’ll try to look for easy-to-cook foods that only require a few letters to type, or fixed keypress patterns, that preferably cooks up high quantities to be served.

More challenging foods require more varied keypresses, and it may be wise to edit your own keybindings to reduce the difficulty of memorizing the correct ones.

Some foods have no cook time, so they are available instantly on successful keypressing. But if your entire menu is filled with instant food, you’re in for a hell of a typing mini-game with no pauses or breaks. Getting foods with cook time in there allows for some breathing room… except that they could also overcook or burn if not served in time.

Best of all, for my scattered frame of mind, it provides a Goldilocks amount of engagement.

Focus and concentration is required over the course of one level. Especially if you want a gold medal, which means zero mistakes. (I think one can get through the story with silver medals, and there’s a Chill mode as well, which removes all impatience from customers, but it limits you to earning only silver medals.)

Aiming for gold is satisfying to me at the moment, so that’s what I’m going after.

It basically means strategic food choices, a couple of restarts on levels if a mistake is made, and the need to practice deliberate focus on the task at hand… but just for a few minutes.

No distractions, no worries, no doom-scrolling or random Youtube channel surfing, just PSMCR PSCR PSC for meat lasagna, LCMP LCMP for tiramisu, MEDOVIKS for medovik and so on.

Level complete. Gold medal satisfaction. Relaxation after tension.

Repeat for a few more levels and then quit when it gets tiring. Until the next time.

Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! – Excellent for short, bite-sized feelings of accomplishment and focused typing meditation. Also possibly a contender for the most punctuation in a game title award.