The Floor is Lava, But My World is Shaken

I thought I understood Hot Lava.

I thought I knew what I was getting into when I decided to complete my Best of Klei bundle on a whim.

Apparently the idea for the game originated from a single dev at Klei, working on the game in his spare time, before Klei bought the rights and let him have the resources to develop his game.

As such, it’s a 3D game with graphics that are a little rough around the edges – not quite the usual polished cartoony look that most Klei games have – whose only saving grace seemed to be a hefty dose of nostalgia.

After all, haven’t all of us played some version of “the floor is lava” in our childhoods?

And my, this game fully grabs hold of the good ol’ ’80s nostalgia for all it is worth.

I might be the last person to discover that Klei has a fantastic Youtube channel with mindblowing lavishly animated shorts featuring their various games’ characters. Immediate sub. Time to catch up on what I’ve missed soon.

You know what? The game’s $2.50 USD after factoring in the bundle discount. The game can be boringly average and mediocre. I just want to tip Klei for feeding my ’80s action cartoon nostalgia – complete with ’80s toy commercial. (Who the hell does an entire toy mockup for a marketing video?!)

So I bought the bundle.

As for the game, well, the Steam page seemed to illustrate pretty much what I was in for.

It’s a 3D platformer. A jumping puzzle game. Multiple levels. Beat your score and maybe that of your friends. Take it as casual or competitive as you want. Score some achievements. That kinda thing.

I mean, I have no strong feelings either way about this.

I generally don’t play platformers as a preference. Neither do I throw histrionic fits at most of GW2’s jumping puzzles (the non-marathon relatively forgiving ones, anyway)

I can appreciate the feeling of flow that comes from repeating a sequence of artfully strategized jumps just right – I’ve done the Mad King’s Clock Tower and Wintersday jumping puzzles now and then for the odd event daily – but I’m not the sort to sit there and FARM the thing to death repeatedly, nor will I try to shave every last damn second off the clock (if there’s no achievement I feel like getting, anyway) on the pedestal of continual improvement.

For a couple of bucks, I figured I’d just install Hot Lava, play it super casually up to the point I no longer felt like continuing, and that would be that. Just hop around like a kid on a playground for a while and call it a day.

On startup, it was quite as expected. You can pick the character you want to play – an amusing lineup of toys/characters in the G. A. T. (Global Action Team) cartoon.

Once upon a time, the characters had distinct abilities, but a later patch decoupled this, so now there are more cosmetic options for player self-expression.

Me being me, I love the monster / robot dudes.

They even come with bonus nostalgia if you read the action files.

As you jump and hop through the levels, you earn xp for your character, which unlocks a whole host of cosmetic options and add-ons, that can be used for the other toys as well.

It’s a simple and pleasant reward mechanic, used by plenty of other FPSes and battle royales before this.

There are other unlocks as well. The game seems to self-awarely poke gentle fun at this, with the shower of gold stars background animation for this menu.

The comics are hilarious. Or at least the one I unlocked is.

It parodies some of that ’80s cartoon moralizing… with a little twist at the end, because it’s an ice cream truck, not an evil pedophile.

As for the game itself… Maps and levels… yes, there are plenty.

There’s a Steam workshop link to presumably player-created ones as well.

Each map opens to a lobby where the map sans lava is available for casual hopping around, with no timers or stress, and comic pages to collect. Just a practice area, where the odd stranger might unexpectedly drop in.

The first time it happened was a bit of a surprise. I’d thought I was in my own private lobby. Apparently not.

Beyond the odd emote wave spam, we mostly mutually left each other be and did our own things, so I haven’t found the need to look for an “Offline” switch. There’s apparently one somewhere.

I suppose this is where people with actual friends that actually deign to play the exact same game at the exact same time might actually visit each other’s lobbies and *gasp* enter the same map together.

The bonus of the public lobby for random strangers is that you can see the race scores for the players in your lobby, so it’s a subtle form of asynchronous competition, if you choose to look for it.

The first two people I saw in game were reassuringly ego-boosting, also new (you can roughly estimate their experience by the number next to their names – ie. how many stars they’ve earned per map level), and having somewhat worser times than I.

Since I was playing singleplayer, I was dutifully completing all the course challenges for the sake of having some goals to aim toward.

The first time goal is pretty generous – as long as you aren’t meandering around, it’s quite easy to make it under the time. The second time goal generally pushes the player a little harder and encourages finding more efficient jumps and shortcuts to make it under the time.

In a nice change of pace, it’s not all compete-rush-timed stuff. There are exploration goals also. There is a hidden comic that almost requires a player to slow down and look through every part of the map carefully to find the item, unless you get lucky and stumble into it. The golden pin is a chiming gold star that is a little out of the way and demands a bit more jumping effort to get to it.

Each challenge can be completely separately, so there is variety for each repetition. One might just go through the first attempt at the map more casually, following the green checkpoints and looking for comfortable jumps, just to get familiar with the place and complete the course.

After that, one might decide to speed things up a bit and see just how fast one can reach the end.

When tired, there is always slowing down a run and diverting to go hunt for secrets or play around and so on. And “no deaths” can be done super slowly and carefully.

It’s not compulsory to complete all the challenges either. Completing the course unlocks the next one and so on.

There’s a decent variety of environments.

I thought I had the game pegged.

I figured that speedrunners and skillful vets who loved this sort of thing were using the ability that lets them bunny hop and build ridiculous amounts of speed to fly through the course. Or mastering other abilities and getting the best use out of them and so on.

Meanwhile, I was happy just casually romping from checkpoint to checkpoint and getting my little gold stars, then going to the next map. That’s casual game gameplay, y’know.

Getting a decent amount of value and enjoyment out of my $2.50 USD.

The movement is smooth and fun; there’s some parkour-like swings and slides and wall stick-and-slides to add to the rhythm and flow; it’s not frustratingly hard; just hop and bounce and double jump from flat surface to surface and eat all the green checkpoint dots like Pacman until the last blue checkpoint goal.

Personal score: Well, objectively a 7, but maybe I’ll bump it up to 8 cos of the ’80s nostalgia factor.


And then…

On the playground map, between one random hop and another, I run into… not a ball, not a toy, not one of dozens of inanimate objects I’ve been running into and kicking into lava, but a moving, living, squirmy dog.

What the hell?

You can fling him around too, in a rather egregious example of virtual dog abuse complete with roly poly physics, as he yips, rolls around and resumes glaring at you.

Some Googling revealed that he is part of a secret Buddy mode, where you can score some achievements, and he provides an alternate form of play with more difficulty, as he weighs you down and you need to get to all the checkpoints with him in hand.

So not only do you have to find him in each hub (or use a third-party wiki), but then you get to figure out the best strategies for making doable jumps without accidentally flinging him into lava, I suppose.

Whoa, how deep does this rabbit hole go?

Not sure I can be bothered, but hey, it’s nice that it’s there.

Anyway, I’m a casual player, so let me just finish up my casual runs and casual gold stars before I think about that, eh?


Last night, I started up the game. Just another casual round of play.

I’d had enough of the School themes for the beginner maps. I’d experimented briefly with the cartoon evil villain lair maps – complete with hilarious gigantic traps like spikes and swinging pendulums – and while they were fun, I just wanted a different intermediate change of pace.

So I tried the Wholesale map. A Costco-style wholesale type of warehouse with shopping trolleys and towers of cans and so on.

I could feel there was a deepening of complexity in that the optimal jump platforms were not so clear cut. There were walls to cling and slide on – a misjudgement of jump strategy would send you flailing into lava. There were alternate possible paths to try and find the best route from checkpoint to checkpoint.

It was interesting. Engaging. I was busy experimenting and plotting a good route for future attempts at more speed.

I was not expecting an earth-shaking revelation. At all.

Somehow, it happened.

In between one desperate double jump and another, while trying to reach checkpoint 6 and mostly failing and rattling my toy body against unyielding racks of wholesale goods before sliding into lava death to retry at the previous checkpoint…

… I bounced against one rack, then a crate, and jumped twice… got up higher than usual and prepared to descend to checkpoint 6… and banged accidentally into a dim inactive green checkpoint.

Or so I thought.

DING, went the checkpoint. Checkpoint 12 of 13, said the top right of the screen.

What? What the- Can’t be…

Did it glitch? Let me just go to checkpoint 13 and then to the end and see…

Sure enough, successful completion. Goodness knows how many minutes shaved off the run.

WHAT JUST HAPPENED?

Let me try again. I ran into an inactive checkpoint and it registered? Is this for real?

So I tried it again. And it obligingly dinged again.

Then I went to Google.

No, it is not a bug or a glitch. It’s not cheating. It’s working as intended.

MY WORLD IS SHOOK.

I feel like it’s on the same scale as -that- revelation in The Witness.

Speaking in generalities to avoid spoilers for those who haven’t reached that point yet, it’s basically Before and After. Before, you had assumed some structures and rules about the world and were obediently completing goals for an expected end reward. After, well… suddenly the world opens up and the previous boundaries no longer apply.

It’s the nine dots puzzle with four lines. You can’t do it if your brain had imposed an imaginary box at the boundaries of the dots. When you realize you are allowed to break that boundary… whoa.

I don’t have to follow the checkpoints in Hot Lava.

I can just get to the end.

If I can figure out a way to get there.

That rabbit hole just went all the way to Alaska.

Now I understand how some players were scoring ~10 second timings on some levels.

Like this random stranger whose lobby I fell into, when I rushed back to a previously explored map to attempt beelining straight to the end.

Previously, following all the checkpoints was 1:30 mins or thereabouts. My super casual attempt at finding a direct path to the end got me to 30 sec.

Presumably the obsessive take it even further and go at a ridiculous velocity to slingshot themselves to the end.

That’s wild.

There are so many ways of playing this game.

One map, so many possibilities. Mind blown. It’s literally game as toy.

I admit it, I was not expecting much at all from this game by its looks. You know what they say about books and covers. Mea culpa.

It’s a Klei game. It can’t be that crappy, y’know?

Possibly the first time I’ve adjusted my personal score rating mid-game to a solid comfortable 8, maybe even an 8.5 for the whole nostalgia schtick.

It’s good. Surprisingly so. A shame more people haven’t seem to have heard of it.

(Or maybe they have, way back in 2019 and 2020, and I’m the one who is two years out of touch.

I’d normally just claim #patientgamer as an excuse, but y’know, there’s an even better global excuse for end 2019 to all of 2020, so I’m a just gonna point the finger at that instead.)

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.

Monster Hunter World: The Poke-Poke-Poke Polka

Let’s take a break from my litany of whimsically playing 15+ games in as many days to talk about my new current obsession.

Yeah, the base game that launched on PC way back in August 2018.

It started with watching too many Youtube videos on one half of the screen, while playing modded Minecraft in the second half.

In the last week or so, it seemed like my entire recommended videos feed was 80% Monster Hunter Rise – no doubt due to me subscribing to a bunch of weapon guide tutorial makers once upon a time when Monster Hunter World was still the new shiny.

This self-inflicted advertising had the effect of egging me onto the Nintendo Switch e-store, where I stared at the latest Monster Hunter game to be released, debating with myself if I had the time and attention budget to pick up a Monster Hunter game for the Switch. That, and whether my cost budget was prepared to pay launch day prices for the newest thing, or if I should bite now for Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate (something I’d been eyeing every time it went on discount), except that it wasn’t really discounted right now.

The thing that held me back was the knowing part of my brain that said that Monster Hunter games really weren’t quite my cup of tea.

I’d played a PSP Monster Hunter before – Monster Hunter Freedom Unite – for some definitions of the word ‘play.’

That is, I went through a couple of the first few levels before remembering to charge the PSP got more onerous than the desire to keep playing.

In August 2018, I’d played Monster Hunter World at my own pace, slowly ambling my way through low rank Tobi-Kadachi before I got bored and distracted. The amount of repeat monsters I’d have to kill to upgrade weapons and armor got to me. The pace wasn’t right for me at the time.

I’d liked the Charge Blade I was slowly learning. But there were also just too many other things to learn and grok at the same time, not just in the Monster Hunter game, but among the other games I was playing at the time.

I put Monster Hunter World down, and only popped back in Dec 2019, when Iceborne was just around the corner.

I didn’t buy the expansion. Still haven’t.

The endgame didn’t interest me. The whole repeatedly killing a monster to get parts to make numerically better weapons and armor schtick is something I’m still on the fence about.

It seemed like I could be having almost the same monent-to-moment combat fun with lower level monsters, as compared with high level monsters with different skins, more attacks to over-complicate matters for a simple brain, and heaven forfend, artificial elemental resistances and susceptibilities that necessitate grinding new gear just to re-attain the same kill times on easier monsters.

I’m sure it works for those heavily invested in the franchise to the point where they need all that complexity just to reach a flow state. Just not for someone already overwhelmed just staring at their inventory.

What got me back in Dec 2019 was the news of Defender armor and weapons being introduced, aka ludicrously numerically overpowered gear designed to boot newbies and/or slow and clumsy players kicking and screaming to the end of the base game’s story, so they had an excuse to buy the expansion and join the rest of the population in the ‘new’ endgame.

While the presence of said gear put paid to the ol’ vertical progression lie, making it very obvious that all the fancy tiered gear/loot were mostly arbitrary goalposts rather than the treasures achievement-oriented players were making them out to be, I was not above making full use of the Defender sets to just brute force my way through the storyline. (After all, I did pay for the whole game.)

I’d switched weapons to Dual Blades, having analyzed myself and realizing that I like my action games faster paced. Slow and steady big hits -sound- fun, but in practice, I’m bored before I can get to the next hit.

If Dual Blades didn’t hit fast enough for me, then I could pretty much write off all Monster Hunter games…

They were fine.

More than fine.

I lacked the patience and finesse to learn the really fancy moves you see in all the Youtube videos where the player pretty much runs up walls and plays a blade sonata on the poor monster’s back, but the basic shit saw me through the main missions.

Left click and hit things with slashy blades. When meter charges up, hit another mouse button to go into berserk Demon mode and continue hitting things with glowy slashy blades.

When monster obligingly stays still (perhaps they’ve fallen down), run up to monster’s head, hopefully in Demon mode, and hit both mouse buttons at the same time to go into a long animation that is the human approximation of a food processor for BIG DAMAGE.

Rinse and repeat.

Granted, there were a few trouble spots. Mostly getting blown up by monster attacks that I had no clue about, nor any real practice regarding. I had no idea how to reach certain flying monsters, nor could I hit any weak points on the Anjanath – until I figured out that I pretty much just had to bang away at his protected legs until he fell over obligingly so I could hit his head.

The Defender gear turned all these possible gating stopping points into a couple speedbumps that could be glossed over.

Started Dec 17, 2019 and in a week, on Christmas Day, I’d knocked out Xeno’jiva and felt pretty much done.

Yes, there was plenty of endless endgame grinding, if I wanted, but I did not so want.

Thought I’d closed the chapter on Monster Hunter World. Saw the story, good enough place to end.


Fast forward to April 2021, and while Monster Hunter Rise mania was all over the interwebs, “Self,” I said. “Given that you’re not terribly attracted to the Monster Hunter franchise to begin with… if you just want to hit big monsters in a measured fashion for a while, why spend more money when you can just reinstall MHW and hit some monsters?”

Self, you are a genius.

So I re-installed.

Shortly after, I realized I had outsmarted myself because I logged back into a High Rank hunter character that had completed all the main story, inventory in goodness knows what state (I’d never tamed it, or my toolbar to begin with), Investigation/Optional/Event missions slinging at me every which way, competing for attention with all the helpful TIPS and NEWS and HEY, HAVE YOU HEARD OF OUR NEW ICEBORNE EXPANSION popups.

It’s like logging back on to a max level MMO character after not playing the game for two years.

There are all these THINGS, and a gazillion and one activities you could be doing… except you have no clue even what they are, and you don’t even know where to start, because your bags are in a giant mess – what do these do, anyway? – and waitaminute, how do my skills/attacks even work?

Well… if you’re going to relearn everything from scratch anyway…

Yep, I made a new character on a completely new game save.

Since I wanted a different, discovery experience (simulating playing Monster Hunter Rise perhaps), plowing my way through with overpowered Defender gear was out of the question.

Since all this numeric stuff is arbitrary anyway, I was going to play the game as initially intended with the original weapons and pretend the Defender stuff didn’t exist.

And perhaps… just perhaps, I might be able to try out a different weapon, rather than cling on to dual blades.

There are 14 weapons in Monster Hunter World. Some which were thrown right out of consideration from the get go.

I have a simple brain. Overly complex weapons and combos are generally not for me. That took insect glaive, hunting horn and switch axe out of the running. (I still do love the feel of charge blade though, so that was mentally bookmarked as a possible.)

Light bowgun, heavy bow gun and gunlance I’d messed around a bit with before, and they felt a bit alien and slow and not terribly enjoyable, so those were out. Bow seemed the most attractive of the ranged options, so I earmarked that for a trial spin or two.

I gave the rest a try in the training practice grounds.

Greatsword shortly fell out of favor – too heavy, too clunky – if I was going to learn how to deal with a heavy weapon, I may as well whole hog it and learn Charge Blade.

Sword and shield seemed average, okay, but you know, similar issue… Charge Blade basically is a cooler-looking sword and shield, with the added bonus of a big elemental axe, minus being able to use items with weapons drawn and presumably, some sword and shield advanced move/combos, if any (not like I was going to be good enough to use a weapon to that level of potential.)

Longsword seemed fairly cool, very flashy, able to sever monster limbs… just a little bit more complex on combos than I’d like to deal with, coming in like a fresh-faced newbie.

Hammer was rather tempting. I have a simple brain, as I’ve mentioned before. It’s pretty easy to wrap one’s mind around the concept of bonk the monster on the head. Left click to basic attack three times. When monster is stationary enough to cooperate, unleash the right click BIG BANG BONK five times. Very tempting.

Alas, the theory was easy but the execution was somewhat lacking. Aiming for the head was difficult. Missing was not very fun. Especially if the monster could gore you in the meantime. Slow, heavy weapons and all that.

Bow was okay. I stumbled over some of the combos, some of the aiming – it would presumably get better over time, like all things after more learning. It just didn’t seem very damaging. And it was way easier hitting a stationary barrel in the training grounds, over a moving, squirming, evading ANGRY monster who was intent on getting in your face and destroying you.


And then there was lance.

You know, I’d never really given much thought about the lance.

I had the vague impression that it was perhaps more of a team-oriented weapon. Sorta like hunting horn can support, as well as damage. Sorta like hammer would play a part in bonking monsters on the head so that it falls down and gets stunned for the whole team to wail on. Lance sounded like the tanky guy who would just face down the monster head on, and laugh in its face while poking it with a stick, doing low to medium damage, while the rest of the team went wild.

But I gamely gave it a go, since I was giving all the non-eliminated weapons a try.

It surprised me.

The first attraction was the simplicity of its basic combos. You poke three times. Poke-poke-poke.

Your only strategy here is you get to choose where to poke. Left click to poke ahead of you – the middle poke.

Right click to poke high – the high poke, great for reaching heads and wings and tails lifted off the ground. (Remember, this was the BANE of my noob dual blades life.)

Then you have a supreme defensive guard/block option with your shield (so proclaimeth all the videos and Reddit threads.)

I vaguely understood there was some way to counter attack if you got the timing of monster attacks right – which seemed like a promising future thing to look forward to learning and getting the hang of.

Then shortly after, the videos completely confused my head when they started talking about evasive hops, dash charging, even more ridiculous advanced combos, fancy vertical wall running and easily mounting monsters.

My main take-home was: Wow, this pointy stick can do a lot. I don’t know if I will ever get to that point, but let’s deal with that later, if we are ever ready for it.

What I really liked, as the pundits stressed, was that the lance was a consistent weapon. Keep up the pace, and do decent dps. Don’t, and well, don’t.

It seemed just right for my basic brain to grasp.

1. Just start with Poke-poke-poke.

Forget everything else for the time being, just get in there and choose middle or high, and poke-poke-poke.

The perfect level of complexity.

I went through a good quarter to half of the Low Rank story missions just poke-poke-poking away and enjoying myself thoroughly.

If these are the 10 levels of Lance, rest assured I was playing at -10 level.

Eventually, the issue that annoyed me grew more obvious. Re-positioning was hard just doing poke-poke-poke.

Having semi-grasped poke-poke-poke, it was time to throw just one more teensy layer into the mix.

Re-watched ye olde standard Arekkz’s tutorial video for the next step in the loooong learning process.

Oh.

Apparently, if I could deal with micro-managing another keypress, there is a hop.

2. You can poke-poke-poke-hop. Then repeat poke-poke-poke-hop. Pretty much forever. If the monster cooperates.

Obviously, that’s not the case, but again, something to worry about another time.

So the next bunch of missions were all about practicing poke-poke-poke-hop. Forward, backward, side hop. Just try. Level 0 of Lance Mastery, go!

Things still got extremely awkward when the monster ran too far away, or more likely, when the monster just decides to pound me into the dirt.

I’d been semi-mangling my Guard button to attempt blocking/countering through the poke-poke-poke process, but I hadn’t really fully grasped what was going on.

3a. So. Getting back down to basics. I stopped trying to re-create the glowy shield aka Power Guard, or trying a fancy Counter-Thrust, and just COWERED behind my shield with the Guard button held down. Full stop.

Monster not attacking? Don’t care. Still turtling.

Eventually, you’ll hit me.

Sure enough, the monster frequently obliged. Observe, the attack bounces off with a satisfying clanky THUD, a miraculously tiny amount of my health drops, and holy heck, I can actually SEE the monster attack animations.

Without dying shortly thereafter because I mistimed a dodge while running around like a chicken with my head cut off.

This made me exceedingly gleeful because it seemed like a future promising step. I could learn individual specific monsters and their attacks super-safely, and then re-use that knowledge for other weapons.

Heck, I can sit here and watch the two of you go at it.

3b. It’s a short sidestep from just cowering behind a forever held down shield, to perhaps timing the block such that when the monster hits, you can retaliate with a counter-thrust.

There still seems to be some nuance to this – basic guarding seems much safer for now when multiple hits are coming in short order, whereas the counter-thrust is a more offensive retailiation when the monster is only going to hit once and leave itself open for follow up attacks.

The other problem was when the monster was too far ahead of me to reach with a simple hop step forward.

I eventually figured out some possibilities, though each took a few monsters’ worth of practice to get the basics down and it’s still very much a work-in-progress on the nuances.

A multitude of options open up after cowering behind a shield, hence the brain confusion.

It eventually hit me that if I was not moving, and pressed the button for basic mid attack, I would do a little stabby poke. Good for just filling time being mildly annoying, while too scared to move out from behind my protective turtled shell.

If I was moving forward while guarding with the shield, and pressed the same button, I would jump forward with the shield.

Spam that button one more time, and now your hunter swings with the shield as an attack. I’m less fond of this, and prefer the other option, to hit the basic high attack while mid-jump. This goes into a leaping thrust and covers a fair bit of ground, and bonus, you might just stab three times into the monster as well.

(Provided the monster doesn’t hit you while you’re mid-fancy attack animation.)

After a few monsters, doing my best to cover ground through hopping and leaping thrusts, rather than wussily putting away the lance and running like a chicken, I turned my attention to the running lance dash.

The vaunted COME BACK HERE, we’re not done yet move.

I’ve barely got the hang of it and it’s already a joy. Guard, then press both attack buttons together, and your hunter essentially recreates a joust, running forward at full tilt and ramping up in speed as long as you have the stamina to do so.

The second speed will chase down running monsters fairly easily. Since the monsters are running away, by default, they can’t attack you as you plow headlong (or lancetip-long) into their tail and ankles, hitting for multiple hits if you stay in contact with their hitbox, and you might be able to finish off with a decent damage thrust too.

I’ve been using a poison lance, so hopefully all the multiple hits proc some decent poison as well.

I’m sure there’s still a long way to go. There’s getting the timing down and putting all these moves together more effectively. There’s one more level to the guarding shield, where you charge it up to make it glowy and stronger, and there may or may not be combos after that. There’s maybe actually figuring out the vertical/aerial attacks one day, and how to consistently mount monsters.

But it’s been surprisingly, joyously fun to steadily work on smoothing out the poke-poke-poke dance.

Even if it’s now the LEAST popular weapon in Monster Hunter World. Apparently, it’s maybe not so good in Iceborne. Not that I care, since I don’t have the expansion.

I suspect it has to do with not dying.

It’s always been frustrating for me to mis-time something while learning, and then get blown to pieces, and get sent back to camp in a cart.

You can’t actually learn anything if you’re not fighting the monster, and spending all your time running back to the monster instead.

What’s worse is that your health and stamina drop, making it more likely to have subsequent deaths. It’s hard to keep preparing consumables, being as disorganized and un-inclined to long, tedious preparation as I am.

With lance, I prep everything once, and generally do my best to not ever die.

Yes, there have still been a few almost insta-death mistakes when I opened myself up being greedy attacking, versus some distinctly over-the-top monster while my armor still isn’t shored up for high rank fights. But they’re few and far between.

Mostly, the action is constant and consistent. Poke-poke-poke whenever there is an opening (or worse case, poke-poke or poke) eventually wears down any monster.

(Or in a really worse case scenario, they just run off and escape the map without dying – but you know, we’re talking Azure Rathalos and Deviljho in an expedition while I’m still barely HR 12, so I do think my current gear might be an issue.)

Either way, it’s pretty addictive, and should probably hold my attention for a couple more days at least.

No promises after that.

I do have the gaming attention span of a puppy, after all.

But being a little angry turtle is a lot of fun.

Mood Gaming Snippets: Faking Industry

Most of early March seemed to be themed around feeling a sense of industry, of incrementing numbers and progress.


Mar 11 – 19

Crusaders of the Lost Idols

Total time spent: 6h 8 min

Had a whole series of virtual meetings for work lined up, yet felt antsy about insufficient gaming time. All work, no play, Jack becomes dull boy, all that jazz.

It hit me that the perfect game for such busy periods was an idle game. Set it up, it runs by itself, pop back in to check on it from time to time.

I already had a favorite idle game, so it was just a matter of cranking it up…

Not played since 673 days ago.

Welp, that’s quite a big consolation boost of XP that got converted into some 894 idols of progress when I reset it for a new run.

Wound up steadily playing through the first two tiers of some St Patrick’s day holiday event before interest petered out.


Mar 14

Minecraft: Peace of Mind modpack

6h 4 min of working on the Immersive Engineering mod. Set up a little platform to build the multi-block machines.

Rapidly glass’ed over the lava pool for fear of falling in.

Progress was slow.

Honestly, I dislike the Immersive Engineering mod, hence why I’ve rarely tinkered with it until forced to, by a modpack that lacks more convenient options. It always struck me as deliberately clunky and less efficient – you have to save up a bunch of materials, figure out how to construct a laundry list of building blocks, put those building blocks together in a precise fashion following the manual to finally make the multiblock. All that, for not very much gain. Or the same gain that in other mods, just requires you to build one compact, convenient block.

This is doubtless, by design, so that it provides both an in-between progression option and for it to feel more ‘realistic’ and ‘immersive’ because you can see a giant machine cranking away as the final result, as opposed to a cold impersonal square box. But I’m a simple person with a simple brain and overcomplicated things get to me.


Mar 15 – 18

Factorio

Total time spent: 7h 36 min

Apparently, immersive engineering was not ENOUGH industry. To soothe this need to chain a bunch of boxes together to crank out widgets, I decided to give Factorio another go.

Factorio and I have… not quite a love/hate relationship, it’s not that strong… more of a like/dislike relationship.

I like the idea of Factorio in theory. I dislike actually learning about how precisely it wants me to link things together.

I like linking things together haphazardly. I dislike boxing myself into a corner while doing so. (And heaven forfend that I have to tear things down and start over.)

I dislike the distraction of nasty alien enemies spawning to take apart my designs while I’m barely working out how to get by in the first place. But I also fear the boredom of just sitting there staring in peace at intractable machines (if I customize the game to take them out.)

I think reading a guide and copying someone’s beautifully optimized designs are pointless – even if it is a mathematically superior, efficient, optimal end point. Why play a game for yourself and remove the enjoyment of discovery and puzzle solving, if you’re just going to follow someone else’s instructions from point A to B?

Yet I’m probably not ever going to progress beyond a certain point if I just try to figure it all out by myself. Simple brain, and all that.

Suffice to say, Factorio and I are still figuring out how to get along.

My big progress step this time around was getting past the ‘perfection’ block of desiring things built just right the first go and opening up to the possibility of iteration – yes, tearing things down and starting over. (Brrr.)

Somehow, building in iterated phases in Minecraft Peace of Mind had opened up a space in my mind to just say, “well, it’s a first draft, we can clean it up as we go along.” Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good, good enough is good enough, and all that. Games can be toys. Factorio is my toy. I am going to build MY way and enjoy the process.

I tweaked down the alien spawns so my calm wouldn’t be as frequently eroded while figuring out my slow way through the perplexing machinery riddles. (I might have actually taken it too far, as I had nothing attack, and I managed to just stroll over to any uncovered alien nests and assault rifle them into bio-goop.)

I tweaked up the quantity of ores in each spot so I wouldn’t be forced to move my whole setup away too soon. (Tear down in parts to improve is one thing, tear the -whole- thing down is maybe too much open-mindedness to expect at one go.)

Composite base screenshot, in case you’re wondering how I doubled myself

It wound up a rather pleasant time.

I had to re-learn most of the whole thing from scratch. There was some amount of tear-down, but I finally figured out that given the progression tree, this is rather to be expected.

I still have unapologetically a spaghetti conveyor belt sort of base – gives it character! – but it’s mine, and it works, more or less. If it’s a reflection of my brain, so be it.

It started out semi-automated, I tend to like to still have a manual touch here and there. Then as it got more tedious, I just patched in more automation over time.

Have I cornered myself where the science labs are concerned? Probably. I figure it can be moved later, if I ever get around to it.

Red and green science are at least cranking, at the moment.

The next step, after casting around and realizing I didn’t have much else to attempt, was either oil processing or figuring out vehicles / trains.

It was there where my brain overloaded. New concept. Didn’t quite even know where to begin experimenting. I got about as far as walking over to where the oil was shown on the map and haven’t quite gotten back to the game.

The map says there’s oil, but all I see are forests and trees in the world. I have to a) figure out how to get the oil out of the ground, b) figure out what needs to be done at the local oil processing base area, c) semi-guard it with turrets, d) figure out how to get oil by products nearer the main base, or vice versa…. Nope, way too much to process.

Mar 18 – 21

Minecraft: Peace of Mind modpack

Total time spent: 8h

Went back to Immersive Engineering and got more machines built, including the whole fermenter, squeezer chain to feed a diesel generator for RF power.

Energy storage is a problem in the Peace of Mind modpack. I’m used to building a big battery or energy tank for holding and storing energy until needed, but the only energy storing thing I can find appears to be a High Voltage Capacitor from Immersive Engineering, and it doesn’t store -that- much energy. I would have to build a huge massive block of them to store what I want.

The other more convenient energy generator/storage option are high level solar generators, but we’re talking immense amounts of iron, redstone and raw materials to build those.

No idea how accurate the spreadsheet is, but it looks/feels about right. I attempted my own spreadsheet and got about 30% of the way into the effort before I thought to Google and see if anyone else had already done so to save me some trouble.

We’re talking 11k glass (aka 11k sand) for the best one. And way more iron than I can mine up manually, at the moment. We would have to automate this. But automation also requires resources, and power.

It’s a bit of a circular puzzle without the more convenient mods I’m used to.

There’s a Quantum Quarry that I sort of can run for a while before I have to shut it off to get more power built up. It digs up an immense amount of stone and dirt, but not actually much more ore than my more manually operated Orechiid.

The other thing to perhaps attempt is the Immersive Engineering Excavator, but it eats exactly the amount of power the Diesel Generator produces (so I had to get that up and running first.)

I got as far as making the core sample drill and sampling two chunks of ground, but the actual Excavator multiblock has yet to be built. Too intimidating a bill of materials and all that.

It got boring. Not enough progress.


There’s a gap in time where my time tracker on the PC doesn’t seem to reflect much gaming. I suspect this is when I turned to the Switch for portable comfort. More on those games in another post.


Mar 26 – 29

Minecraft: Ocean Outlast modpack

Total time spent: 11h 33min

This was a modpack that always showed up as a featured modpack on ATlauncher, which I’m now using to load up Minecraft.

The cover picture looked soo attractive and pretty.

The idea seemed cool. Basically, skyblock – where you generate most of your own resources – but set in an archipelago, with islands and ocean all around.

It started out well. I threw in my standard shaders and texturepack because I’m now spoiled and can’t do the original pixelated Minecraft any more.

It chugged a bit while loading up all the mods, and I had to tweak down the render distance, because I was concerned with my aging computer’s ability to cope.

What eventually broke me was the underwater ocean.

Ocean Outlast has a Better Diving mod that makes the underwater much richer, almost a direct copy of Subnautica stuff. It looks great.

If I could actually see it, that is. My shaders turn underwater almost pitch black. I have to hold a torch in order to light up a local area. Putting lights under the ocean didn’t work, it only lit up dimly a radius of 3 blocks. Night vision didn’t work.

A good part of the last two days were spent experimentally editing shader files ad nauseam, trying to hit upon the appropriate settings to solve the problem.

I actually got rid of underwater fog and turned it crystal clear (was able to see kelp a long distance away – making the computer chug even more) and looking into the water from aboveground was insanely beautiful – like the world’s most pristine tropical beach filled with a riot of colorful coral (RIP my computer).

But the light itself remained stubbornly broken. It seemed tied tightly to the actual Minecraft light levels. Jump into the water and light levels turn to 0 numerically. On top of the underwater light, light levels were 12. Walk a block away and it drops to 9. Two blocks, 6. One block, 3. Anywhere else, zero. Nil. Nada.

So I had the option of dropping my shader and going with boring ol’ Minecraft ambient style light, or leaving the shader on and attempting to light the ocean every 3 blocks… or finding another shader… or giving up…

After what seemed like 20 restarts of the modpack in one day and its super-slow loading time (it’s very mod heavy, and even opening the quest book makes it chug), the last option seemed like the best way to get rid of the problem for good, by removing the folder entirely from my life. (Hence, the lack of pretty screenshots.)

Perhaps another time, with a stronger computer, and maybe some other shaders.

Having dropped it, I veered into another modpack, Skyfactory 4, which I played briefly ages ago, and decided to start a new world. That one’s going fine. But that’s a tale for another day.