LitRPG: Where the Fictional Meets MMORPG

Now here’s an odd specialty sub-genre of fiction that I couldn’t have conceived of in my wildest dreams.

I encountered the term while browsing through the Solo Roleplaying reddit – another niche gameplaying style where the goal is to entertain oneself by solo playing a tabletop RPG. Some narrate events to themselves, some simply daydream, others pen down some manner of written record to help their memory along. Often, this may include some game system terms in a sidebar or separate paragraph, to demonstrate where the game mechanics stepped in to take some authorial control and surprise the solo game player. (Without this game emulation, it’s basically just writing a story.)

Someone mentioned that such written records resembled “LitRPG.”

Now that’s a strange term I haven’t heard before. What newfangled creation hath this corner of the young internet wrought?

Google to the rescue.

Wikipedia defines it as:

LitRPG, short for Literary Role Playing Game, is a literary genre combining the conventions of computer RPGs with science-fiction and fantasy novels… The proponents of the term state that in LitRPG, games or game-like challenges form an essential part of the story, and visible RPG statistics (for example strength, intelligence, damage) are a significant part of the reading experience.

Wikipedia on LitRPG

The top search on Google (or at least my version of what Google deems is most relevant for me) is a The Verge article on LitRPG. The article author, Paul Miller, is fairly critical on the literary aspects of the books (ie. extremely lacking) but positive on the primary concept, that of a real person becoming lost in and learning to live in an MMO world, stat blocks and all.

A more positively biased summation of LitRPG comes from the page of (naturally) a LitRPG author.

I’m excited by the potential of LitRPG as a medium for dissecting our fascination with games and virtual worlds. Through our gamer and NPC characters, we can explore the relationships between real lives and virtual lives, and gain a better understanding of our own psychology around the human-technology interface. Why do we want to lose ourselves in digital fantasies? How are we motivated by quests and level-ups? What is it about virtual relationships that are so satisfying (or not)? By trying to answer these and many other questions through LitRPG, we can strive to understand the actions and motivations of the hundreds of millions of people who now call themselves “gamer”.

Edwin McRae, “What is LitRPG”

Some informational dumpster-diving through years-old Reddit threads later, I had a couple examples of what titles were generally considered “LitRPG.” Most looked like self-published work going for bargain bin prices on Amazon.

Being unwilling to pay sight unseen for dubious quality products and mostly just curious as heck, I identified two generally-recognized-as-not-horrible examples that were available for the glorious price of free.

Excellent. Free is good. Enough to figure out if I might like it or not.

The Wandering Inn appears to be a serialized web story in the manner of Worm. The protagonist, Erin Solstice, is a modern human suddenly teleported into a Breath of the Wild-esque fantasy world where a whole bunch of new game-like rules (e.g. sentient monster races, skill leveling) are as universal as breathing.

Faced with barely any relevant survival skills, her best bet is to take refuge in a mysterious inn and wind up in a Recettear-like situation where one becomes a fantasy innkeeper.

AlterWorld: Play to Live. A LitRPG Series (Book 1) by D. Rus. This Russian author is credited with mostly kindling (haha, pun, see what I did there) the budding genre. In this fantasy version of Earth, it has become possible for people to get essentially ‘sucked into’ a fully immersive MMO universe, becoming fully digitized where the physical body can be conveniently discarded with no ill effects to the digital self. This is known as “perma mode” (as opposed to “perma death,” I guess.)

The protagonist, Max, on learning he has a plot-convenient terminal illness hatches his grand plan to purposefully trigger “perma mode” and become Laith, a High Elf Necromancer in the MMO AlterWorld (because you know, opposite Drizzt is a thing and players always gotta buck the racial/class norms). There are some distinct stilted phrases and terminology scattered throughout, presumably due to the author’s Russian background.

The later books apparently get much worse in quality as some distasteful themes make themselves known in the author’s writing, but if one wants to study the genre, it makes sense to at least have a look at the original genre-starter. Free, after all. No plans on paying for more.

Having gotten a couple chapters into both titles, I have to say… I don’t know… The whole thing feels weird. Creepy weird. Yet strangely compelling, in a fanfiction train wreck sort of way.

On one hand, the serialized version of the web stories feels like a harmless fanfiction prose version of various game-inspired webcomics I love to peruse and follow along – things like WTF Comics (a distinctly Everquest flavored adventure campaign that has sadly petered off in the past few years, but the existing content is top notch), LFG Comic (a more half-original, half-WoW flavored take on things), and so on.

Granted, the good web comics become renowned because their -comic- qualities (as in, the art, the layouts, etc.) are quite high quality. It seems fewer of the present LitRPG cohort meet good prose thresholds, which makes their “literary” claim to fame a trifle presumptive, or at least, somewhat preliminary.

Expect fanfiction quality levels of English – some pretty good, others downright awful, the odd typo or grammatical error here and there. Editorial cleanup passes are unlikely.

That said, the authors plainly have some ideas and are keen to convey them, and are more or less understandable, so it is possible to be curious about the fates of these characters and the precarious situations they find themselves in.

What I do find weird is the thematic blend of fantasy and reality.

I’ve always known that I don’t play MMO games like a good many other players do, where they put themselves or an idealized version of themselves into their avatars, which then play the game.

I’ve never purposefully made a character that looked like myself and then put real world “me” into the game. LitRPG, conversely, seems to be full of people who do exactly that. Total immersion to them means throwing themselves bodily into the game world.

Me, I play MMO games from a GM’s or author’s perspective. I separate myself, splintering into various shards, containing multitudes. Some have aspects of me, some have aspects of others, blended up into a unique formula which makes them distinct. Each of these shards is a character, with their own personalities and backstory. They need a name.

Once named, they are not me. They are them.

Total immersion to me means that these characters can exist fully in these new worlds and settings as totally lore appropriate beings – there is never the awkward juxtaposition of trying to resolve modern-day issues and sensibilities (a carry over from a player brain that is unable to sever their own personality from their avatar) in a non-modern-day fantasy setting.

LitRPG, to me, seems to be written by a generation of people who have less background in books per se, but whose growing-up experience has been the odd physical and virtual blend of always being on the internet, always having social media around, always playing some form of video game. Little wonder that their real world selves merge with their digital selves, and this craving need to resolve the paradox.

That would be the positive form of LitRPG. A far worse form would be the pretender that has poor grounding in either actual game or this blended dilemma, but tries to throw in made-up game jargon anyway. At which point, I think the problem becomes clear. Any fiction requires a consistent world. If your construct of your fictional world is created poorly, through lack of understanding of game systems, then the inconsistency shines through and grates with every paragraph.

Generally, I lack the confidence that a fanfiction style author has the capacity to formulate a consistent fictional game world for their story. Not only are there authorial responsibilities, they are now taking on game designer responsibilities for the game jargon and skill/systems interaction. That’s a pretty big ask.

A solo RP written report doesn’t have that problem, because the game system & rules come from established texts from other authors.

A Let’s Play of an actual -real- game, whom I heavily enjoy reading the well-written ones, has the same grounding because the game system & rules exist in reality. The authorial responsibility there is then just to write well and be entertaining, and explain the systems text & rules if required.

Reading any LitRPG leaves me feeling that I’m on shaky ground. I’m not sure if the rules are consistent, or if they are going to bend to suit the fiction.

Perhaps my concern is wrong, and there are indeed authors who can handle both at once. Constructing a game world full of solid rules design, as well as plot a story that contains both conflict and compelling characters. But it seems there very well might be some tradeoffs here and there.

In any case, the final oddity is that I guess I find the obsession over game text curious. I tend to skim read over most system messages.

This placing of game text on a hallowed pedestal of a full paragraph is a strange convention of LitRPG. It reminds me of the way 4x strategy gamers scrutinize every last word of a skill, or resource, or building and basically min-max and optimize their way through a game mathematically.

Me, I admit to doing no such thing, unless forced by circumstance to. I’ll just pick stuff that sounds good, stack it all if possible, and read it only if I must. Game text is not meant for word-by-word parsing, if you ask me. It’s like an informational system message. Could be spammed. Picking up the big picture seems sufficient.

Still, LitRPG adds up to being an odd curious genre. I suppose there’s no harm following along further with the free stories, if one has time, if only just to find out what happens next.

Aggressive Helping and Perfectionist Overwhelm

The entertainment of the past few days has been watching an apparently quite famous Twitch streamer (I wouldn’t know, I’m old and unhip) try out Guild Wars 2.

I’m mostly left wondering how much is deliberate performance for Twitch income and how much is genuine flawed human on display for the public to revel in celebrity culture and their own flawed humanity.

There’s been a LOT to unpack and digest in these last four days.

It started with the news of the hour over on the Guild Wars 2 reddit that “Summit1G” was streaming GW2 on Twitch to an audience of 30,000 or so.

Now my first reaction was, “Who?” but you know, that’s just me being very much not a millennial or younger.

I watch Critical Role on Twitch, and chill to CohhCarnage from time to time because both communities are very positive, filled with good vibes and no toxicity, but other than that, I tend not to be in the loop with anything or anyone else.

So like any curious onlooker, I pop over to the Twitch stream to gawk.

Day 1 is mostly the same old Queensdale run that any new player goes through, and a jumping puzzle or two.

The only difference is that Summit1G attacks and murders pretty much any mob in sight (hey, like me! need me some combat action, yeah!) rather than just travel obediently from point A to point B doing hearts. (He does that too.)

That, and plenty of blindingly shiny blinged out players desperately craving for their five minutes of fame attempting to jam themselves into his camera view. A percentage of viewers (and the streamer himself occasionally) are annoyed. I have no dog in this fight, so I’m only mildly amused. (That, and if you play GW2 on the regular, you’re so used to tuning out this visual bling anyway.)

The guy plays for 11-13 hours straight, which is… wow, a lot to unpack.

On one hand, it gives me the viewer something to actually watch during my late mornings and afternoons, which is well nigh impossible when you live on the other side of the world as the majority of English-speaker streamers.

On the other hand, you can’t help but wonder how exhausting it is and how much this would ultimately contribute to burnout. It seems to be sort of an underlying current in the public commentary surrounding this celebrity – that he seems to be bouncing from game to game unhappily looking for some kind of PvP holy grail.

From Day 2 to 4, besides a quick stint in Ascalonian Catacombs, Summit1G discovers GW2’s structured PvP and goes for deep deep 11-13 hour dives into the format.

He has his own group of mates with him, so they are usually in a complete 4 or 5 person party at any time. This provokes a twinge of envy for how quickly he can get set up and supported. The background players often seem to be adjusting more quickly than he is, playing better games or helping push the team to victory despite his meandering off, lack of objective focus or newbie mistakes.

Then again, they don’t have a distracting Twitch chat stream filled with scrolling emotes, text spam and advice of shapes and colors aggressively overhelping and attempting to backseat drive his every move.

Not to mention, highlighting and pointing out every last poor decision with immense schadenfreude.

(Even if attempting to go 1 v 3 while completely inexperienced seems to be perfectly obvious common sense.)

The very definition of irony

In the above clip, MightyTeapot (a fairly well-known GW2 streamer, whom I’ve normally never bothered watching because I’m old and don’t do videos) had popped in to join their PvP team and do a little coaching and demonstration of a somewhat slightly higher level of PvP play than the newbies were exhibiting.

He’s busily lecturing in his nice, positive, calm voice to… uncertain effect (Twitch chat alternating between catcalls and support) while Summit1G leaves mid point and charges right up to near the enemy spawn because he sees two enemy players low on health and has gone into full lock-on blinders mode.

Little does he know that he’s shot through the enemy team and overextended (a third fully health enemy to his side he seems to have missed or dismissed), and that one of the low health targets is a necro, with a second health bar. The necro pops into shroud and that low health becomes full health, and the three generally dogpile him.

His teammates are mostly back at mid, or reluctant to walk into that outnumbered battle to support, and all the while MightyTeapot is busy droning about picking one’s fights properly (aka not being stupid.)

This is a moment of endless amusement for the Twitch audience.

Which on one hand seems to be positively desirable for the purposes of Twitch streaming – your audience is entertained, they learn stuff, presumably this nets viewers and followers and real life money being thrown at you because some people have a desperate craving to be right on the internet or to provide helpful advice, and will actually tip $5 to have their words read out via text to speech and posted on the stream for all to see. Repeatedly.

On the other hand, this might do a number on one’s ego if one is the least bit less well-adjusted and self-secure. If you’re competitive or perfectionist or the least bit invested in one’s performance, dying and losing would already suck. Especially if you want to be and feel competent. Especially if you have an inkling that your friends are doing much better than you.

Never mind that the reality is that it’s going to take quite a while and a lot of effort of study and practice to accumulate skill and knowledge towards competency, and that patience and good self-esteem are important factors on the journey.

We don’t know how much is real and how much is a demeanor for performance purposes, but suffice to say, that a perfect positive role model is not exactly on display over the four days. (And should we really expect such a thing? Isn’t that over-expectation of a different kind as well?)

There are a lot of complaints. A lot of newbie errors. Like forgetting to use a heal. Walking straight into AoE because one has no clue that it is dangerous.

Generally getting melted by conditions and stunned and interrupted to oblivion because both condition cleanse and stun breaks are a completely alien concept to newbies. (Something I have deliberately used to fairly devastating effect when I paddled around in the shallow end of the unranked PvP pool because I have no illusions about my lack of any real PvP capability, and have to shore up with knowledge trickery.)

This is apparently quite agonizing to a certain percentage of his viewers, who spam the chat with unsolicited advice. Useful for other viewers in a receptive frame of mind, perhaps. Much more questionable if the recipient is un-receptive.

I’ve been in the latter shoes before. It is hard to diplomatically explain to the overly concerned individual that one simply does not want to invest the necessary time and effort to “git gud” because it is not a personal priority among other competing priorities at this time. It’s possibly the individual’s priority, hence why they are so attached to the outcome, but it’s not yours.

I’ve also been in the former shoes. It’s tricky. Sometimes you just want to share what you know with others. The person may not ever learn it otherwise, and if they know it, they might have a better experience.

(I had someone pop a late comment into my Terrafirmacraft Plus post the other day. I would certainly not have realized my error about TFC+ fruit trees otherwise. I would have no reason to comb the wiki about fruit trees, especially since I haven’t picked up the game in three months. On the other hand, the usefulness of this is also questionable for said obvious reasons above.)

Then again, sometimes the advice is too overwhelming and simply too much to absorb at any time. Especially if the person is not feeling in a receptive mood. Then it simply becomes counter-productive pressure, because all the person wants to do now is push back and defend their boundaries and autonomy, including the freedom to make their own mistakes.

Because ultimately, it’s a game. It should be about having fun. It should be about learning organically.

It shouldn’t have to be about performing perfectly to suit other people’s expectations. Hell, -work- wishes they could achieve that. Not happening at work. Why should we expect it in our games and entertainment?


For what it’s worth, I continue to watch because it’s both entertaining and educational for now, and it’s something new in GW2 land (which as we all know, is a rare animal these days.)

It’s nice to see the learning process, newbie mistakes included, because it demonstrates a more everyman human frailty, rather than some god of PvP firing off keys at an expert piano playing rate, helped along by a 30ms connection to the servers.

There’s also the possibility of seeing other people play well and learn something new too. Had no idea you could actually time a warbanner res to resurrect yourself.

Not being much of a PvPer, even I can see that Summit1G has fairly good instincts from his general experience at other PvP games. His escape game is leagues better than what I can put up, breaking line of sight almost instinctively and hopping up and down elevations and putting great distance between himself and others when he’s low on health. (Now if only he can remember that he can heal himself in the process…)

How long he will last in GW2 is another matter. Celebrity gossip and drama appears to follow him. Chances are high that he’ll take flight in another direction soon. But it’s certainly been an entertaining couple of days.

Sorting Out Virtual Stuff

Last week’s lament seems to have gotten to the root of the problem in a roundabout manner.

Clutter in all my virtual houses was creating clutter in the mind, and making it difficult to take in more input – be it actual digital stuff, or just thinking about acquiring more digital stuff.

One thing I’m not good at is handling the urge towards crippling perfectionism, which then turns promptly into procrastination.

That is, if I can’t clean it all up to picture perfect standards, I may as well not start at all.

This is a line of thinking that leads absolutely nowhere.

So in small, baby steps, going real easy on myself, I tried to nip away at the problem from different angles, like a baby piranha trying to eat a brontosaurus.

Problem, The First

Overloaded Guild Wars 2 inventories make it impossible to do anything.

You can’t play, more things will come in to clog the works up. You can’t move them anywhere, because there’s no more space left. Throwing them away is a waste, because you never know when you’ll need a ton of them, and/or make a killing selling stuff on the TP.

You could use them, but you’d have to figure out exactly which esoteric ingredients need using in what precise order, which means lots of wiki recipe reading… aka absolute tedium.

Eternal ice and eitrite ingots were the main panic inducing currencies, because I get to do strikes once or twice weekly, after raiding. When you’re not actively doing anything else with the game, this adds up.

Illuminated boreal weapons were bottlenecked by a lot of tedious mystic forging and/or buying ingredients towards amalgamated draconic somethings. I made one or two, then left it on the back burner.

Eternal ice can be converting into other Living Story currencies, which is the main reason I’m hanging onto the main morass. I just haven’t figured out exactly how much I need of whichever currency yet.

The last option was to use a smidgen of the excess into building larger sized boreal bags. This is attractive for multiple reasons – use up some excess currency and get more space, and literally get more space by owning bigger bags.

The bottleneck here is Supreme Runes of Holding, which are obtainable by gamble-flushing stacks of ectoplasm in the hope of getting lucky. Or buying it off the TP for 8.5-9 gold each. Not exactly cheap, which is why I never did anything about it earlier, but I’ve been accumulating raid gold and not spending these past months, so… eh.

3 Supreme Runes can net 28-slot bags, which is a distinct size improvement from my regular miserly 18-slot or 20-slot ones.

So I made a couple and did some desultory cleaning up.

I’m sure it will still induce anxiety in most people, but hey, there is some visible space. I have some room to play tetris with things, and that’s about all the motivation I can muster for this game and this project, so… good enough.

Problem, The Second

Disk space was more of the main mentally pressing issue.

The C: drive was running at some 8 GB remaining out of a 238 GB SSD (ostensibly it’s 256 GB, but apparently Windows and hard disk manufacturers count GB in different units of bytes.)

The other SSD wasn’t doing much better (20-30 GB out of 238 GB), nor the 1 TB hard disk drive (80ish GB out of 931 GB available.)

Since that is a lot of STUFF taking up room to deal with, I thought I’d attack it from the easiest target for the biggest impact front.

I ran Spacesniffer to visually see the conglomerations of folders taking up the MOST space.

Turns out that the only big things in the C: drive were Windows, Guild Wars 2 and Path of Exile, plus some scattered stuff in Documents folders. GW2 was pushing 47 GB, PoE 30ish GB, and Windows in that 30-40GB ballpark.

It gradually became obvious that keeping the three together would not help the C: drive any, nor are any of them viable candidates for immediate removal. So the last option eventually clarified itself as move either GW2 or PoE out of the C: drive and into another drive.

Yours truly is a lot less confident about GW2 acting right on a non-C: or non-SSD, so that eventually distilled itself into next action: Transfer PoE out of there, and into the other SSD (since I do still want PoE to perform nicely.)

Segueing Issues, The Third

Cleaning up the other two drives to make a bit more room was essentially a collaboration between Spacesniffer and Steam.

Most of the large space hogs were Steam games. I took out 40 GB of Van Helsing 1 and Van Helsing 2. I’ve played the first game, once upon a time, and was sort of halfway through the second. I figure I have a ton of other ARPGs I’d rather get around to first, so I can install them again later, if ever.

Attempting Talos Principle for the third time was the right time.

Laser and block puzzles are fun. The recording ones can go to hell.

I raced through most of the puzzles in four days or so, only going for hints and outright solutions for stars and some later puzzles that got a bit too headachy and tedious to deal with.

The main head rush was the joy of insight, of being able to figure out something new, logically or intuitively, from the components at hand.

Getting to see pretty scenery in super-ultrawide didn’t hurt either.
Oddly, the second world reminded me a LOT of A Tale in the Desert visually, just with more graphical sparkle.

The difficulty started to get a little out of hand during the later puzzles of the third and final world. I started feeling a little antsy and impatient, so I went for only the easy and medium endings, and gave up on the most completionist Messenger ending. There was also Road to Gehenna DLC I picked up in a bundle somewhere, which mostly provoked a “oh no, not -more- puzzles” response, so that quite decided things.

As much fun as annoying and chating with the Serpent is… when you’re sick of the puzzles, you’re very much done with Talos Principle.

Out went another 20 GB, with much relief. I can always reinstall later if I ever want to re-do the Messenger ending, or if I’m finally ready for more puzzles.

I gave BATTLETECH a go.

It was surprisingly text-laden and crunchy, systems-wise. Seemed very faithful to the original tabletop franchise, from the perspective of someone who knows nothing about said franchise.

It was also amazingly unforgiving. I died twice in the tutorial and had to restart from scratch, mostly because I had no clue what I was doing, the tutorials didn’t tell me, and the controls and UI were a little obtuse.

It took a little skimming of some third party guides to begin to grasp the initial basics – like being able to selectively choose weapons to shoot, what “health” was (aka armor and structure), and the odd turn/phase order.

I dunno, but I kinda needed this screen in the ACTUAL first tutorial mission, not AFTER I gained enough knowledge to complete the tutorial.

Being really stubborn, after a brief ragequit and some reading, I played like a really careful X-COM strategist for the third tutorial attempt and blew through with flying colors and a lot less instant death failure.

It still felt slow and tedious, and I had no clue what I was doing on the first story mission after the tutorial, and it was a 30 GB monster. So I gave up and deleted it.

Of course, after that, I got curious enough to Google “Battletech slow” and learned there are mods / easy ini fixes to adjust the pacing and everything, so eh, maybe. I’ll reinstall it when I’m ready.

On one hand, I really find the concept of playing some big stompy robots and strategically shooting up hit locations magnetically attractive. On the other, the thought of needing to understand every last stat and detail of every single Battletech mech and weapon in order to play well is a little off-putting.

Not to mention, Battletech’s apparent habit of cheerfully killing you off ruthlessly if you didn’t immediately know the correct approach to deal with a particular situation. (Destroyed twice in tutorial mission; promptly shredded up by turrets in first story mission while trying to work out how to get LOS to a turret generator to destroy it.)

This Dark Souls difficulty thing is a trend that is getting out of hand.

And then there was SOMA.

I finally completed it today.

Really happy about that. Possibly a little too happy, given that it’s supposed to be a horror game about undersea robot monsters.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this experience, it’s that I get bored shitless with walking simulators, really quickly.

I really need the ability to interact and WHACK things with a stick, at the very least. Heck, even Subnautica lets you stab things with a knife, if ineffectually. Most of the time, you would still play as intended, if only because killing things with the death of a thousand paper cuts is beyond tedious, but one needs the option for action, in order to feel less artificially restricted.

Since horror stealth games are an immediate NO GO zone – because jump scares feel artificial and jump scares where you die immediately if you didn’t crouch and wait for eons in darkness while listening to scary noises are time-wasting bullshit – doing it walking simulator style with no immediate death possibility was the only way I’m ever completing the game and the story.

The story was not bad. I can understand why people like it. There’s a certain Gone Home verisimilitude in poking around the leavings of a setting and other peoples’ belongings. I half-enjoyed that part, except the controls felt a bit slow. The thematic and moral questions were quite good for stimulating philosophical thought on issues of humanity.

The body horror bits were a little lost on me. Yes, there was a great deal of aesthetic ugliness around the place. But eh, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Perhaps the ugliness is also about adaptations to a deep sea environment. At one point, I also thought that if we were shrunk to the size of a cell and crawling around the human body, it would also look like a godawful gory mess of horror too.

At any rate, it wasn’t a waste of time to experience it once, and I’m also VERY HAPPY that I don’t have to waste any more time experiencing more of it. It is DONE. Finally. Strike off another 20 GB.

The end goal of all the rampant deletion is that all three drives are back to a nice looking blue in Windows Explorer, with ~40 – 140 GB free space remaining. One has a little more mental bandwidth. (Ironically odd statement, since as far as I checked, I’m not an AI or a brain scan reliant on disk space. Yet.)

It’s also helped to target a few more low-hanging fruit goals of games to play and deal with first. Ample disk space is a very powerful motivator.

New Acquisitions, The Fourth

Sorting out the whole Steam nonsense was next on the list.

In went this month’s Humble Bundle Choice serials. I even managed to install some of them to try out before the month is out.

Off the list for me were Verlet Swing (too absurdly trippy for me) and Yuppie Psycho (I don’t really enjoy horror genres enough to play through ’em. I’ll watch someone else play, no problem, but firsthand playing them isn’t really rewarding enough for me.)

In went the Road Trip Special purchase.

Turns out, it’s all DLC.

With all the games I’m now motivated to play through and boot off the hard disk, I don’t actually see myself needing any new games for the time being. At least, I can certainly wait till the Christmas sale.

I do have about $6.50 in local currency or ~$4.70 USD of odd duck games (ie. games with known issues like glitches or pacing or just not very fun, but the concepts sound interesting to explore for cheap) sitting in the cart. I may or may not jump on it later tonight.

But it’s also interesting that I ended up prioritizing the purchase of DLC for games I -know- I enjoy.

I received Boundless free from Chestnut. Given that I’m 430+ hours into the game, I’m starting to feel like I should give the company something in exchange for all this enjoyment I’m having with it. So I did.

I don’t strictly need the deluxe edition upgrade. I was doing fine without it. But as a thank you, with some bonuses attached, I feel pretty good about it.

I get a month of Gleam Club (worth $5usd a month) where I don’t have to worry about keeping beacons topped up – granted, stuffing 10 foliage worth of fuel into my small number of beacons per month is no big deal to me either. The Gleam Club comes with colored chat text, which I am unlikely to use since I am not a chatterbox, but perhaps I can get some use out of emojis in signs.

I get 500 cubits and 10% more plots, not as if I was running out of the free cubits or plots any time soon either.

And I get to make a special weapon called the Golden Fist, which I could have bought from other players or asked other players with the Deluxe edition to fire off my machines to make them. Still, since I now have the ability, I mass crafted 10 of them and will eventually have to get around to forging them and then taking them for a spin to see how they work. (I could have just stuck to normal slingbows also, which have more range than the fist weapons.)

Virtual House Expansion, the Fifth

The Boundless base has been extended in three compass directions with extra plots, to reserve space for future planned expansions of storage, farms, and machines.

I’ve been digging out the holes slowly and steadily, but have been interrupted in these pursuits by the arrival of exoworlds, in shiny colors, that I feel like I need to snatch up, before they disappear in a few days.

Being someone who loves the color green, I so want to stay on this planet forevah!

The sorting/tidying/cleaning/ordering bug has hit well enough to at least do a tiny bit of a constructive thing.

In this case, the new basement corridor that will eventually lead to rooms of machines. Initial sketches using placeholder blocks, while the actual marble and concrete were still getting mixed up and crafted in the machines.
The more-or-less finished product.

Mostly less, because I added a bit more decoration on the mid-level stair landing, and I want to do something more decorative and make a proper fountain/water feature later on.

(The water was left over from trying to make a safe landing spot in the basement, before giving up and doing the L-shaped ramp as stairs route.)

Addendum, the Final

I’d intended to get a quick 30 min game out of one of this month’s recent Humble Bundle Choice, so that one could feel virtuous about actually having played a game I newly own.

I wound up nearly 2 hours into it.

Suffice to say that Beat Hazard 2 is still pretty durned good.

Mind you, it takes a little getting used to.

There’s a Steam review on it where the author calls it “How to make yourself legally blind 2: the game.” Accurate.

My first encounter with its predecessor Beat Hazard, and I recoiled like a vampire from its riot of color and sheer visual excess.

I was ridiculously motivated by Steam achievements in those days though, and there was one nasty one in Beat Hazard that was in the way of my brilliant completionism. So I gritted my teeth and just stuck it out.

At some point, your brain learns to compensate and literally tune all the visual bling out as merely background noise. The trick is to just zone out and let your eyes defocus on the background where the lightshow is, while mostly feeling the rhythm of the music and focusing only on important things – like where your ship is, where the killer bullets are, and where to just spray your own bullets in the general direction of targets.

One big improvement upgrade on the original is that Beat Hazard 2 allows you to play your own music from any streaming site or Youtube by using desktop mic to listen and some third party music identification service to figure out what the song is.

Given how esoteric my music choice can be, that it identified correctly about 50-75% of the Youtube videos I was using as actual music tracks, that’s not too shabby. (We’re talking Melodicka Bros, Miracle of Sound, Wind Rose, Sam Tsui, etc. It kinda half gave up with earlier Miracle of Sound and Peter Hollens videos and it more or less surrendered with nightcore.)

What is pretty cool is that each track dynamically generates for you a new ship that you could purchase (with in-game cash, not real cash – sad we have to specify this now) and use.

So you might find potentially find good or bad ships, and tell your friends to go play those music tracks to get good ships, etc.

Each ship also has special missions to upgrade them further, mostly based about the artist or words in the track, so it keeps unlocking potentially limitless gameplay tasks.

But mostly, Beat Hazard 2 is about chilling to as intense or relaxing an experience as you personally want to make it (you can dial down visual intensity to 50% and use really slow songs, or if you’re score-motivated and highly competitive, then you need 300% visual intensity for the best score multiplier – in which case, good luck to your eyes) while listening to music you enjoy.

I could think of worse ways to waste 2 hours.

Boundless: On Storage and Rice Farming

299 hours and still counting. Progress is slowing down a little, if only because we’re reaching the stage of attempting to master more complicated systems, plus work expanding to fill the greed of one’s self-set goals.

I barely got the basement storage by different color shades built, and all the gleambow gleam blocks of all colors of the rainbow neatly filed away, before I started to feel the aching need for more, even more storage space in order to properly sort out one’s bulging inventories.

There was space for gleam. For three types of rock. Maybe decorative plants and flowers. But what about sand, and gravel, and ash, and sponge, and mould, and three types of tree trunks? Oh, and growth, and mud, and glass, and blocks made from the rock like bricks and marble?

Complicating the issue was learning there was a complex block limit of 512 blocks per 2×2 plots, all vertical plots considered together.

Storage blocks are complex blocks. So my grandiose plans of being able to stack floors on top of the other would not really work out, beyond one more floor, if that.

Going flat and wide would spread out the complex block load.

There’s pretty much only one direction I can expand in. I wasn’t going to move the gleam cabinets and there is a settlement I don’t want to infringe on to the left. So I decided to snatch up the plots on the right before some random newbie decided to plonk down beacons that might block my future storage expansion.

When I’ll actually get around to hollowing out the space, building the ceiling, floor and churning out the blue marble for the walls and black cabinets for the actual storage… well, your guess is as good as mine.


On an actual accomplishment front, I got off my arse and built up the sub-basement under the easy farm crops.

Rice and starberries are what I would classify as medium difficulty crops.

Starberries require a lot of air gaps for good seed and crop yields. There are three types of starberries, that require different patterns in which to grow them.

I discarded the hardest ‘juicy starberry’ from consideration for now – it seemed easier to build up stocks of the crop by farming foliage; growing them required a lot of space that I wasn’t sure I had in this basement.

The normal and glossy starberries I managed to fit a few trial rows passably into one half of the room.

The real trial was rice.

Rice, on planting, takes about 2 days and 7 hours to grow, if just left to grow in the air.

If you submerge them in water, the growth time shortens and becomes optimally 11 hours, as long as the water isn’t too deep and either extends their growing time or stops them growing entirely (ie. a direct downpour of water from a source block.)

Learning the limits and physics of Boundless’ water was an experimental challenge.

I’d hoped to be able to turn the water on and off using a trapdoor switch from one side wall. It wasn’t long before I found out that water would only extend about 7 blocks.

So I wound up working backwards and marking places every 7 blocks or so where I needed water to fall, in order to completely submerge the rows of rice I was going to plant.

I also got a bit carried away and decided to turn the entire room’s floor into a rice room. (Well, if I was going to design a tap system for it, I may as well make sure I grew more rice than I would probably need for a while, so that I didn’t have to expand again so soon.)

Each new point that needed to get a waterfall ended up forcing more and more heights of pipes (made from 3 glass panes cobbled together into a U shape) for the appropriate water doubling.

The final trapdoor switch wound up fairly high in the room. (Fortunately, this was a very high ceiling’ed room.)

This necessitated its own little water elevator in order to float up to it, in case I was on an alt without a grapple and still wanted to flick the switch on or off.

This worked fine in the initial test.

Then I planted the rice and realized that rice -also- needs to be surrounded by water for good crop and seed yields.

Ok. We can do that. We did something similar with the easy crops. This is a known solution. Just chisel the surrounding blocks into half, and pour water into the other half so that you surround the crops with a water perimeter.

Imagine my chagrin when I realized that my waterfalls, on contact with the water perimeter, just sank and didn’t flow anywhere.

Enter a period of even more experimentation where I hammered up the chiseled blocks and replaced them, to restore their full height.

One full height block directly under the waterfall only caused the water to spread out left and right (directions relative to the camera in the above screenshot) to the neighboring block, before sinking once more. (Why it didn’t spread out forward and backward onto my actual rice fields is beyond me. Maybe it has to do with the direction of the actual water flow.)

Turns out it required three full height blocks before the water would obligingly change directions and spread onto the crops.

There was also a little niggle where the water refused to reach the cornermost crops, seemingly regardless of how many full height blocks I threw in… until I hit upon a strange configuration where the one correct full height block in the middle of sunken water drains would help the water flow to the correct corner. Not going to argue. Just glad I found a solution.

The last problem was that the rice crops nearest to the waterfalls were short of sufficient surrounding water in the water drains to reach full 100% seed yield. They were only at 80 or 90% seed yield.

For the crops near the sides, I managed to find enough floor space and even hid a few water blocks in the walls, to squeeze in enough water to bring them up to 100% seed yield.

For the crops in the middle though, there were literally no more blocks left to use. Cue a great deal of reading and pondering and research, before I hit upon just giving up doubling their crop yield and boosting their seed yield instead via growing them in compact clay soil, instead of tilled clay soil. They would only return ~100% instead of 200% worth of crops, but at least I pushed up their seed yield back over 100%.

Losing an extra rice crop here and there wouldn’t be the end of the world, given the ludicrous amount of rice I was about to grow. Finding myself short of sufficient rice seeds to replant after every harvest cycle would make me batty in short order. So I went for that convenience.

The final rice room is, if I might say so myself, a thing of beauty.

It took quite a few hours and days of work and brain cudgeling to get here, but I’m really enjoying the finished product.

Boundless: Test of the Gleambow

Boundless continues to consume the majority of my gaming time.

I popped into GW2 for quick moments to check out the latest story chapter and meta map – they’re good, nearly everything seems to be improving lately (except servers and routing lag), but the major take-home for me was the realization on stepping into Drizzlewood Coast and feeling, “Egads, there’s just -too- many players around.”

Far be it for me to try and coerce a game into something it patently is not. GW2 is a game of the zerg and mega-zerg, an ode to the power of spontaneously forming cooperative groups. That is one of its strengths. It should play to it.

If I am no longer in a headspace for it, then that’s on me, and not the game.

Surely, in this era of overflowing Steam libraries and free games thrown at you every week, one can manage to find other games for the experience one is craving.

Desperately fighting off an immense urge to re-play Terrarria (that is one -deep- rabbit hole to fall down, a lot of time is needed for that one), I throw myself back into Boundless to at least close some projects before beginning others.

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The top floor of the farm is about there, sans some ceiling chiseling and the decision of what other crops to install into the two rightmost plots.

I’m having second thoughts about closing up the box, the open cave into the hillside has its own style of attractiveness. Then again, if I can make the entrance look good, with more decorative motifs and/or statues, it may also work. We’ll see.

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Got my first wheat and oat harvest the other day. 180% and 220% crop yields with 100% seed return. Not too shabby. At 54 seeds, that’s about 100ish crops each growth cycle.

My crafter alt still lacks sufficient skill points and skill page distribution to really get into high level foods (I threw the points into high level brews and tools instead, leaving out weapons, foods and grapples), so we’re bottlenecked there for the time being.

The basement floor is still an utter mess. I used it as a prototyping space for figuring out water systems for flooding rice, and I haven’t gotten around to cleaning up the aftermath. No firm decision on a setup yet either. I gave up and went gleambow hunting.

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We’re in the second and final week of this event.

Observing the player interactions from afar brings back A Tale in the Desert sociological experiment memories. A ton of them. It’s like the Test of the Obelisk queue all over again.

The forums are filling with drama. As expected, an organized group figured out a way for a majority of players to ‘win’ in an organized fashion, by creating a voluntary cooperative system to partake in.

In this case, apparently cooperating players gather together on a hunting platform in the center of a region. This triggers meteors to spawn at the highest level (level 6) if the group is large enough. Normally, this can only happen once with a natural spawning meteor, and then the group moves on to the next hunting platform, unsoweiter.

The new spin is that they are now using gleambow augments to summon meteors. Summoned gleambow meteors have the colored blocks, but the gleamtrunk mobs do not drop additional sacs, so there is no reason for extra people to go after the meteor, beyond the shared reward of completed meteor, and the actual colored blocks themselves.

A ‘queue’ system is apparently in place. So people line up on the platform, announce they are summoning a meteor, and then (if one follows the group’s rules), only the summoner gets to go and break the meteor they summoned. The group also made portals in all cardinal directions to help the summoner get there as quickly as possible.

Just like the obelisk queue, there are always going to be more selfish defectors. I gather – without going near the entire thing at all, the planet they’re doing it on is supremely laggy for me – that there have been a couple of ‘enterprising’ players capitalizing on this surfeit of near-guaranteed level 6 meteor spawns to grab even more colored blocks for themselves.

Their defence is that the event is titled as a ‘race,’ the in-game rules and devs do not prevent them from snatching up blocks from any fallen meteors, and that competition is part and parcel of the event. It sounds exactly like the defence of the obelisk queue jumpers – building big and extensively is the point of that event, and those who want it should rise to the challenge and overbuild them/be faster.

Some people call this griefing, others call it self-interest or perfectly innocent behavior or possibly an accident of ignorance or playing within the limits of the in-game rules. Me, I think the motives of various people are made super clear by the behavior they -repeat-.

Extra drama points for those who spring up out of the woodwork, claiming victimization and verbal harrassment from the organized cooperators. Their PR spin on things is that the big group ‘bullied’ everybody in the regions nearby into playing by their new sandbox rules, that their boundaries have been infringed by the group choosing to do their activities near their existing territories (they were there first, and this group just muscled in and decided this space was theirs now), and they certainly will not play by the group’s rules and if they can disrupt the group, they will.

Mind you, the whole reason the group exists is also because of the mutual greed of a level 6 meteor (a HUGE amount of colored blocks) prompting cooperation via enlightened self-interest.

Me, I’m not touching the entire angle, from either side, with a ten foot pole. As tempted as I am by the thought of a level 6 meteor all for myself, it is tempered by the realization that I would have to stand in a line for possibly 15-30 minutes before it comes around to my turn (can there be anything more boring), plus the thought of all these defectors just beelining towards every meteor, ready to spoil the experience and getting a kick out of it.

My solution is the same solution as the obelisk solution. Patience and outlasting the drama and choosing the correct time and space to profit.

The gleambow augments can be used even after the event. Firing one off when nobody’s noticing is the best way to not have a meteor get stolen. Granted, it’ll only be a dinky level 1 meteor, but meh,  it annoys me more to have to ‘share’ a larger meteor with people who invite themselves to the party. I’m fine with my own private party when nobody’s watching.

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So I’ve been sneaking around on the Aussie planet (hoorah for 100ms ping), at timezones when only the Oceanic players are awake, and staring intently at my atlas for any signs of nearby players. If there are any, I scram off to another region for more quiet, uninterrupted personal time with my lil round balls. *coughs*

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With no one else around, I have complete say.

I move to the center of a region to trigger my own meteor. I’ve learned how to look directly up into the sky and identify the one and only comet trail appearing near directly overhead and streaking to a nearby region. I chase it.

I get there, looking all about me to make sure no other red squares indicating other players nearby pop up on the compass. I make my own decision to lose or complete the meteor, based on what materials it’s made of.

Losing the meteor leaves my timer fairly intact (around 2 minutes), and I busy myself shooting the gleamtrunks for those remaining seconds. I pop about 6-10 sacs each dinky meteor I give up. If it’s gleam, then I collect fewer sacs (maybe 2-4) then I smash the meteor and collect a small, dinky amount of gleam.

Then I’m on the move to another region and grabbing at least 4-5 dinky meteors in 30 minutes or so. The return may or may not pall compared to those standing in line for their giant level 6 meteors. But it certainly has more action to keep me engaged and less drama.

If I bump into someone else, I usually give up the meteor. It’s one meteor. I’m not going to be as fast as the established players. I saunter over, pick up whatever sacs and the final completed meteor reward is there, and then I LEAVE. The entire region. Because I’m not going to keep triggering meteors for super fast players to snatch up under my nose. They can trigger their own meteors by themselves.

There is no fight. It is ships momentarily passing in the night, and then we’re gone, never to bother each other again. They get their own meteors over here, I get my own meteors over there. It is hermit poetry.

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I have no standard of comparison with the industrial big boys, but I am not playing at their levels anyway. In my own turtle way, I have collected a decent amount of rare colored gleam. As a satisficer, for now, it is enough.

I don’t plan to build with rare colored gleam, so that’s one demand drain lifted. I’d like to have enough to do the goo mutation thing, but I don’t have the faintest clue how to goo farm yet, so one has no idea how much one really needs. At experimental stages, 3-4 of each gleam doesn’t sound that bad, and that seems to be what is gradually accumulating haphazardly in my dump storage.

In fact, it’s getting full. It’s getting to the point where I stare down into the neck of the container and realize that this is no way to keep a library of rare gleam colors, because I don’t even know wtf I have.

I look at all the storage blocks and shelves of my current base, and with a sinking feeling, realize that a) I don’t have enough empty spaces for this amount of colors, and b) it would be a bad idea to mix rare gleam with gleam obtainable from existing planets, how would I tell them apart?

You know, for only wanting to build functionally, I am doing a LOT of building in Boundless. *half-hearted grumble*

I decide on another sub-basement. I hate ruining the countryside with eyesores.

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First layer of digging. The waterfalls are inadvertent hilarity caused by digging underneath some of my farm plots. (At least it’s not lava.)

I put in another protective yellow gleam ceiling layer.

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Then I sit around and try to work out the colors. I suspect Boundless holds my building attention more strongly than Minecraft simply because of the colors.

In Minecraft, colored blocks are either an afterthought or need a fair amount of dye/industrial processing to get sufficient blocks for building. In Boundless, most everything has inherent colors.

I picked up a ridiculous amount of dark blue rock the other day while hunting for emeralds. I didn’t want to throw it away, so I turned it into marble, thinking I might make a blue color scheme building at some point.

An underground sub-basement for gleam and storage of other things with colors sounded too depressing to make completely blue. (Also, the amount of naturally blue rock was limited, and I didn’t want to delve into paint sprays just yet. Work within one’s limits and all that.)

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One thing led to another, I wound up with high contrast, light-colored floor and ceilings to offset the dark blue walls and the black storage cabinets.

I also did a ridiculous amount of prototyping in-game. There was a lot of construction and deconstruction.

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It eventually iterated into something that looks passable.

255 possible colors, divided into 28 sub-groups, and a cabinet stack for each of those 28 shade/sub-groups. Should hopefully be enough for the moment.

It is interesting to note that I do a lot more planning and prototyping and iteration of builds in Boundless. The effort required to mass produce enough blocks for a build is not insubstantial. This has a carry-over effect where I test and re-test and prototype until I’m fairly happy with the result, before I set the machines in motion.

Anything with more ease, and I would probably get a lot more careless about my builds.

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Final prototype layout in place. Now to replace everything with actual storage blocks, and hope nothing else goes wrong.

It’s not been all meteor chasing and homebody building. I scraped together enough time to pop by the latest exo-world as well. My first T7 exo-world. More milestones reached. More on that another time.

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