Blaugust Day 31 – Ultimation

[Which was the only reason I wanted to call yesterday’s post Penultimation. Ah well. Next year.]

I’ve been too busy and/or sleeping (meece feeding every 3 hours overnight, Ysh-face =  >:-|  ) to check Feedly yet this morning — whoops, afternoon, even for me — but I’m sure our Blaugosphere is full of these posts. And I’m equally sure there’s an ambivalent mix of OMFG IT’S DONE IT’S DONE IT’S DONE SOMEBODY GET ME A BUCKET OF TEQUILA AND SOME FIRECRACKERS!!! — or maybe that’s just me? — and “Damn, it’s actually done. We did it! However much we posted, however well we posted, however much we read and commented and liked and hi-fived — it’s done. Huh. I might even miss it. Just a little. While I down my second bucket of tequila.”

441-ambivalent-anger
Thank you author. I have no idea who you are because following links led me to a site in Iran, not much help, but thank you.

It’s been a trip. I’m not going to get all number-y on you because TAGN is so much better at it (remember girls, math is tough!) and did his Blaugust wrap-up post yesterday. Not because he’s a teacher’s pet or anything, just because he’s Borgishly efficient. I’m tempted to keep prefacing my posts with Blaugust all the way through September and October just to give him something to curl his lip at in Feedly.

(Okay, Blaugust is over, I guess I should stop picking on him. Pax.)

A little more seriously though, while I suspect TAGN has 83 times the traffic I do, the sources of our traffic are oddly similar so there’s no reason for me to reprise his analysis. I thought I’d get a significant traffic boost from Blaugust, but I didn’t really. I got quite a boost over January – July 2015, during which I barely posted, but this month’s numbers are comparable to last year’s numbers at this time. Which is nowhere near what they were 3 or 4 years ago, but that’s basically what happens when you stop posting; I’m surprised as many people still did visit throughout the Great Stylish Drought of 2013-2014. (Apologies to California.)

The vast majority of my traffic comes from search engines and always has. The most viewed post this month was the silly, glib and utterly throwaway post about the WoWspansion, by which I mean it was even more glib than usual for me. That would me mildly irritating if I didn’t already know that’s how things go — my most-viewed post ever is another throwaway one with a simple link to a FF XIII post on Gamasutra – that’s it. I guess it shows up on search engines a lot.

I’m getting more traffic from Twitter now than I used to, which isn’t hard because I got practically none, and I’m sure I have the lovely @RowanBlaze and his RTs to thank for that — not to mention everyone else who has RTd me, of course. I’m getting quite a few new followers over there too, bafflingly. I suspect I just don’t get the basic point of Twitter, which seems to be to follow as many people as possible in the hope of having as many people as possible following you so that you can say “Hey! I have Xty-million followers, that’s 1.27 more than you!” Or something. The “Oh yeah, I know you” people I follow back. Some of the “Um, who? But sure, you seem interesting” people I also follow back. The obvious bots (you know, Egghead icon, 78k tweets, 0 followers) I block. As for the rest, I just hope my insignificant, glib and usually irrelevant tweets vanish into the raging torrent of their 6k+ followed feed.

As you can tell, I’ve spent some time on Twitter this last month, probably more than I have in 5 or so years. It’s kinda neat to be able to bat silly little text-snippets back and forth with people almost in real time… but it also makes me deeply uncomfortable. Being on Twitter ‘live’ is like having a thousand tiny lampreys nibbling at your soul. Or maybe that’s just me. I’m really good at multi-tasking except, apparently, when it comes to social media. And I don’t think one is supposed to be on Twitter the same way one watches an episode of House on TV — or maybe people watch TV like they watch Twitter these days, with 0.3% of their attention, while doing 5 other things. I don’t know. It makes me feel old and vaguely Luddite. Luddite-y? Luddite-ish?

I posted every day, which is cool, mostly because I didn’t expect I was going to  — although in hindsight I’m not so surprised. I’ve never had any problem waffling. It’s the interesting, useful, perhaps even thought-provoking content that’s been so conspicuously absent from this blog for the last few years, and that’s what I’m agonising over. But if Blaugust has shown me one thing, it’s to stop bloody agonising and just do it. If I truly am blogging for myself, as the lady keepeth protethting, then surely it doesn’t matter what I write. Just because a post (or three years’ worth of posts) isn’t interesting doesn’t mean I’m not capable of being interesting or thought-provoking anymore. Right!

Right?

… Anyone?

…. Bueller?

 

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PS: Meece still alive and doing as well as can be expected. Feeding them is still a major PITA. I think we over-estimated their age – they now appear to be about 4 days old, so they were 2 days old tops when we found them. Brought them to our vet just to get their opinion and everyone there went aiiiiieeeeee hanta aieeeee tularemia leper mice outcast unclean! so we came home again. (Our vet is a lovely practice. I’m being overly facetious.) I’m just waiting for their silly little mouths to get big enough to make feeding less of a hit-and-miss, make-sure-they-don’t-inhale-it-and-DIE kind of tension-fest.

Blaugust Day 30 – Of Mice and Women

WARNING: Rodentophobes, move along. Baby mice picture coming up.

Edit: I was going to call this Penultimation because that sounded cool, but it didn’t have much to do with rodents. Oh well. At least I’ve mentioned it.

This is going to be a very, very short post. [I lied. It’s as long as all my other posts. Figures.] Because this:

baby miceYesterday late afternoon our dogs finally managed to get into a mouse nest that one of our local critters had built within the folds of the grill-cover I had (foolishly) left lying in a heap outside on a deck chair. I had no idea it was there but I suspect the dogs have known for a few days. Ironically of course, I saw that grill cover a few days ago and thought Hrm, now that we’ve moved the grill to the front of the house and away from most of the rain and wind, I really should move that cover to the garage. As usual, thinking about it (and then not doing it) probably took longer than simply picking up the damn thing and putting it away would have done.

Oh well. Long story short, baby mice strewn all over the back patio and surrounding gravelled areas. SO and I found the nest after a bit of judicious searching in the area. Mom was not there, obviously. I have no idea if we got them all — we found 5 altogether — and we’re lucky, I suppose, that our dogs are apparently too gormless (or too aware of what a bleeding heart I am) to have done them any damage other than nosing them around on the cold concrete.

So out came the shoe box, in went the tea towel (later replaced with a lovely cotton nest with a donated sheepskin dog toy, which the Husky is none too happy about), in went the meece. It was late, it had already been a bloody long day and we were tired, so we called our Biology PhD (mammalian no less) friend / neighbour just to be sure we were doing the right thing and fed them what we could of the milk we had in the fridge. It’s not ideal, incidentally, if you ever need to rescue young mammals, but it’ll do in a pinch.

We lost one of the meeces overnight, despite me getting up every couple of hours to try to get them to eat a little more, but the four that are left seem relatively hale and active (for creatures that basically sleep all the time). We hit the pet shop this morning and picked up a small cage, some bedding, and some kitten formula and they certainly preferred the latter to the cow’s milk.

Why kitten formula and not puppy formula, you may ask — I know I did. I’d have thought it had way too much protein in it for rodents. And why not mouse formula? Well that’s one’s easy — your average pet shop does not assume you will be hand-raising orphaned mice. The reference we Googled suggested kitten formula (twice diluted) without explaining why, but a quick perusal of the nutrition percentages leads me to believe it’s because puppy formula contains more than twice the fat (~40% vs. 18% in what we bought), which is presumably not so good for meece, while the protein & carb levels are almost identical.

So yes… as the spousal unit pointed out, we spent $60 on what are essentially back-yard pests, but I’m ok with that. I couldn’t leave them there to die, and having made that non-decision the rest is as much of a non-decision. No, we didn’t get a gold-plated rodent cage, but we did get enough to keep the little buggers alive and well for the 3-4+ weeks it may take them to become independent. Then we’ll release them. We live in a very rural area on the edge of a national forest, and they can go out and thrive and/or become owl or coyote food as nature decrees. I’m fine with that, but I wasn’t okay with letting them die on the concrete.

They have changed a lot in the 18 or so hours we’ve had them, but I haven’t taken any other pictures yet. Last night was very fragmented and I’m kinda tired since the SO doesn’t dare manipulate the babbies as they seem so delicate. They were 2-3 days old I think when we found them, so they’d had their colostum (which is good) and should have a reasonable chance of survival.

We’ll see.

[Edit – here’s an updated picture, less than 24 hours after we found them. The ears are unfolding.]

meeces day 2

Blaugust Day 29 – Probably Foofery

So… I got nothin’.

Eh, that’s not entirely true. I got lots of stuff but I don’t want to write about it today. I have a post I want to do about how Blaugust was awesome (and exhausting) and how the community is awesome and about how EVERYTHING IS AWESOME. Even Princess YellowFeather thinks so*.

But that post is for next Monday (the 31st) or perhaps even for next Tuesday, as a post-mortem.

I have another post I want to do that’s all about frothing over tabletop RPGs, but that would take too much effort away from other things today — such as actually getting said tabletop RPG going. These things don’t write themselves, you know! (Posts or games.) I’m fairly certain this would only interest a small subset of my readership but, though I love you all, as always I also don’t care. You’ll read what I write and you’ll like it!

Or, you know, not read it. That’s cool too.

gaming geeks

I should do a post about my new Sims4 Legacy family, the Stylishes (pronounced Stye-LEESH with an outrrrrrageous French accent), because quite a few of the folks who have been reading here this last year are Sims4 players and I don’t want to completely ignore them — and because it’s been a fairly fun Legacy so far that hasn’t been plagued by Terminal Triplet syndrome or other mourning-excess or family-forgetting bugs. But I haven’t played the Sims all month and I’d rather write about it while I’m in it, so to speak. Maybe in September.

I want to do a post about how I have totally and utterly failed to live up to my Gaming To-Do List, because REASONS. Number one being that I usually totally ignore lists, so this was no surprise to me.

Hah! I just took a look at it and I haven’t done a single item on that list! To give myself a little bit of credit, I did try: I downloaded Torchlight II and was super keen to play that, but the Steam install keeps throwing out a Disk Write error and I absolutely cannot be arsed to jump through uninstalling and reinstalling Steam, as is their suggested solution. Screw that.

Well anyway, this was just to prove that I have tons of material, dammit! — I just choose not to use it today. And I bet I’m totally the best at writing about how I’m not writing out of all the Blaugustians out there. I said so on the internet so it must be true.

Last but not least, if you ever want to show support for a blog but don’t have time to say much or the words just won’t come, I refer you to @Wolfy’s suggestion, which I will adopt from now on. It’s friendly, cheerful, and super-positive:

I TOTES AGREE WITH YOU HIGH FIVE!

PS: Foofery is a word I thought I’d made up but apparently hadn’t. Not that I trust the Urban Dictionary to define shit (literally) as so many of the entries are entirely made up, but I can’t really throw stones there, now can I. I do come up a lot on Google searches for the word though, which I am quite unjustly proud of. On this blog, if nowhere else, it’s a word for general stuff-and-meaningless-nonsense — you know, like this post.

– – – – – – – – – –

* I sure hope that link works for people. As of yesterday I can no longer watch YouTube videos on my Windoze PCs. Only one in every 10 or 15 videos will load.

It’s not Windoze 10 as I suspected, because I have the issue on my Win 8.1 Laptop. It’s not Firefox, because I have the issue on Chrome and even on (*spit*) Edge. It’s not hardware acceleration, since turning that off has no effect on any browser. It doesn’t appear to be a Flash issue (my FF Flash has been broken for months but Chrome’s is not). It’s not AdBlock because I had the same issue on the iPad in Safari, which doesn’t run that extension — which means it’s not Windoze at all.

Oddly enough, the iPad YouTube app and the Android YouTube app appear quite healthy and unwilling to censor my binge-watching of Mishka and Laika videos. Anyway, I mention this only in case one of you delightful, smart and helpful people had the exact same problem and found a solution not already covered above. And to spread the Gospel of the Talking Husky, because CUTE-DOG.

Blaugust Day 28 – You Don't Say?

Metrics and traffic and referrers, oh my!

I actually don’t care too much about those, though there is something hypnotic about clicking on all the little metrics bars for all the different time periods, at least here in WordPress. But I checked the Comments info out last night and it did make me laugh, so I’m sharing it with you. Actual numbers have been removed a) to hide my shame or b) to not shame others, or c) because they really don’t matter — take your pick.

The screenie below shows the comments each month for the last 12 months, starting in September 2014. The smallish peaks (December and April) coincide with me doing a lot of Sims Legacy challenge posts alongside  WoW-Draenor and my usual fluff. January – March see me putting out exactly four posts each month, which doesn’t really give people much to talk about.

2015 blog comments

And so we circle back to Kanter’s decision to comment on at least one blog post a day during Blaugust. I loved that idea and though I haven’t actually kept notes (even mentally) of whether I’ve commented every day or not, I’m pretty sure I’ve managed at least one comment on one blog every day for the last 26 days — not counting my own, obviously.

I’m probably even happier about that than I am about blogging every day, because the latter is purely a self-involving exercise whereas the former requires me to interface with other people, something I’m occasionally happy to do in spades (with appropriately long sanity breaks in between) but don’t like to have to do all the freaking time every day every week for a whole freaking month and not just a February month noooo a 31-day month and can you tell this is starting to wear me down?

I’ll tell you one thing about blogging every day, commenting every day, and interacting on Twitter every day* – it does get to be a habit, and one I’m not sure I want to give up. It brought me back to my blog and other people’s blogs and has renewed my enthusiasm, if not for MMOs, then at least for talking about them with other people. I’ll just have to find that proper balancing point between ‘often enough’ and ‘so often it makes me want to chew my keyboard’.

– – – – – – – – – –

* Which has been by far the most exhausting part of the whole endeavour, for me. I enjoy it, but God it’s tiring. Expect me to go Twitter-mute for a while without warning.

 

Blaugust Day 27 – Game MMOver?

Well, at least by now I’ve learned how to type Blaugust and not Balugust, Blagaust, or Blasgut. Small victories, folks — small victories.

I’m careening full-speed ahead on my tabletop RPG kick. It’s energising me far more than the thought of any MMO has in the last [insert time span]. In fact, thinking about tabletop playing has energised me far more over the last 4 or 5 years than MMOs have; the fact that in half a decade I still haven’t managed to get myself a regular group with a regular game is entirely my fault and not that of the poor games I’ve perused, pondered and reminisced over. Like my writing (what writing, we ask?), it’s something I really, really want to do — in the case of tabletop gaming, because I actually enjoy it as a social activity and because it’s a great creative outlet… But, as with “proper” writing, I spend more time wanting to do than actually doing. Again, this is entirely my own fault. Time to stop QQing or going down nostalgia lane and DO SOMETHING about it. But for now, let’s talk about MMOs.

MMO QQ

Last night, as I lay wide-awake after too much coffee too late in the day and too many creative juices churning with no outlet (they should make a pill for that), I wondered once again whether I’ve finally outgrown MMOs. I’m not the only one to ponder this during Blaugust or indeed at any other time of year, so perhaps it’s simply part of growing up and growing older, this wondering whether we have outgrown the things we used to love so passionately.

Perhaps. But it’s been 15+ years since I played Ars Magica and I’d play it again like a shot given the chance, so clearly I haven’t outgrown that — or moved on from tabletop RPGs. Not playing because I lack the gorm to get a group together /= having outgrown it.

I think my problem with MMOs is that I have nobody to play them with. Which may seem like a rather sharp about-face given my usual stance on solo vs. group, but that’s playstyle, not playing. I’ve always preferred bimbling around by myself in MMOs — I don’t mind mine being the only butt I see onscreen… but up until a few years back there were always a bunch of other people also bimbling around at the same time, single-butted or otherwise, and I was in constant contact with them through chat.

alone together

In Asheron’s Call we had a large and active monarchy (guild) and loads of people to mess around with even using the incredibly primitive chat. A number of the AC monarchy people moved to Star Wars Galaxies when that came out, and we had friends both old and new cursing the not-so-primitive but also non-functioning chat. We moved from SWG to (City of Heroes, briefly, then to) World of Warcraft, so there again we had old-old friends, new-old friends from SWG, and new-new friends from WoW to chat with on various channels.

And that’s sort of where it ended. I moved on to EQ2 in 2006 or so, and while I made quite a few new friends there, it wasn’t the same either in quantity or in quality… and it only went downhill from there. In the last decade we’ve seen an explosion of MMOs, and while that’s a good thing in many ways, one of its less social effects is that it has diluted my pool of available friends and acquaintances when it comes to having people to play alone with, together. We’re all still playing, yes (albeit probably not as much as we did back in 2005), but we’re not playing the same games.

Or not at the same time, anyway. Many of us hop around from one game to another, myself included. In the last 5 years I’ve played more games than I care to count, but none of them for more than 3-6 months at a time. We try new games as they come out, and for a few weeks I’m back in the halcyon days of having plenty of folks I know in-game to talk and mess around with… and then I lose interest, or they lose interest, or for whatever reason we move on.

bored

I really thought I’d come home when I started playing the SWG Emulator, as my posts back then attest. There were only a dozen or so of us playing but it was enough to keep the social momentum going. And then… one by one, folks dropped away. Including me. My enthusiasm was in full fire in April this year… and by July it had petered out to nothing. I haven’t logged on in over a month and my houses are probably on fire (well, houses don’t burn, but you can be sure my harvesters are gone). The worst part of it is, I don’t really care.

Because MMOs simply aren’t as much fun when the O doesn’t stand for “Others”, whether their character is on your screen or whether it’s just the characters they type in guild or global chat.

You can never go home

The social aspect is by no means the only reason MMOs are going stale for me, even if it’s a large part of the reason. I know I can slaughter 10 foozles over and over again for ages in the right company, because — well, because I’ve been doing it for 15 years in 30 different games. But there’s another rub: the 2015 foozles have better graphics and perhaps slightly better AI, but the beast itself hasn’t changed substantively.

It’s undeniably another reason why MMOs are going stale for me — even I, with my enormous capacity for repeating content, might be reaching my limit. I stumbled across this post from 2011 just now while looking for links to something else, and it shows that the growing malaise with endlessly doing the same thing in MMOs isn’t exactly new. How quickly we forget the dawn of time when everything was shiny and fun, even after 10,000 foozles. Ah, 1999, those were the days.

But that’s human nature, I suspect.

Back to the beginning

And so we circle back to tabletop RPGs. I started playing MMOs in 2000 because a friend told me it was just like tabletop roleplaying, only online*! You could play with other people at any time of the day or night!! You didn’t have to wait for your half-dozen friends to have a free weekend and pile everyone into a small UK house for 72 hours every 3 to 4 months!!! You could even play alone if you had to and get eaten by a pixellated grue!!

I didn’t get into MMOs because I played computer games (although I played quite a few, including MUSHes). I got into MMOs because they were supposed to be just like tabletop gaming, only different.

Turns out they’re too different, at least for me. I can’t roleplay in an MMO, for various reasons described elsewhere — or rather, I can but I don’t enjoy it. And the thing about roleplaying is that you’ll never have the same experience twice. Sure, some events will resemble other events, some plots will be rather similar to other plots, but those just add to the RP lore and mythos in your mind and in the shared memories of the group.

That element of creation, permanence and effect on the world — even an imaginary one — coupled with the social aspect is what I’m missing in my MMOs. It’s not that MMOs have become crap, or worse than they were, because if anything they’re improving (even if the WoW model is getting a little stale); it’s just that I can no longer pretend I’m getting out of them what I got out of tabletop RPGs.

So while I may dabble in my usual MMOs for the foreseeable future, I’ll be turning my energies to the tabletop arena. It’ll recharge my batteries and who knows, it might even help me recover that sense of fun in online gaming.

dark side

You’re welcome to join me. I’m going to set up some kind of social phlumphty-phlump (AKA I have no idea what to use — Google Hangouts? Vent? Skype? Roll20?) to chat with anyone who’s interested in trying (or returning to) tabletop gaming.

 

* You did have to pay exorbitant phone fees in the era of minute-based internet connections, but we won’t go there.

 

 

 

 

Blaugust Day 26 – LFG PNP RPG

TL;DR: #Blaugust-ians, don’t give up! The end is nigh! (And this is a good thing for once.) Zen is tough. Cute red panda. Call for tabletop RPG players. Poll results = CHEESE WINS.

As #Blaugust wanes, so does the energy of the, err, at least 460(ish)* bloggers. I’m judging this from my traffic stats, which have taken a modest downward turn this week. Others have noted the same.

I can tell you from my own behaviour that I am browsing fewer blogs this week than I was through the first three weeks of the month, not because they’ve become any less interesting — quite the contrary in fact! — but because I am running out of energy. Social energy, for the most part, which is the part of me that reads and comments on blogs, writes and comments on my own (and cares about the comments), and posts/comments on social media. My social energy bucket is damn near empty, and conversely my introvert AUUGGHOTHERPEOPLE bucket is almost overflowing.

full bucket

[/tangent: re: traffic stats, even that’s not the whole story. I think I have people who are coming back more regularly — and who are more than welcome to keep doing so past Blaugust, ohai regular folks! — and who aren’t browsing several pages and/or posts every time. In the first two weeks of the month I had about twice the number of views as visitors, which I assume is partly people browsing and partly the usual dreaded bots.]

But we’re in the home stretch. Go team #Blaugust! And since I had to edit it into yesterday’s post, here’s a mo’ better proper-like link to Belghast’s post from yesterday. It resonated quite strongly with me.

As time passed, the guilt that I felt grew and the measure of that “epic comeback post” kept growing as well ultimately leading me to wait longer before posting it.

Yup. Hopefully Blaugust will have taught me that there is no epic comeback post. There’s just posting or not posting. I’m still trying to learn — beyond my rational mind, that is, which knows all sorts of things my less conscious mind just ignores — that guilt is entirely counter-productive and definitely destructive. But whole empires have been built on guilt, so it’s a tough one to shake. My mind struggles with the concept that I am not a perfect unique snowflake (forever falling short of the pinnacle of said perfection!) but rather a work in progress. Journey not destination, uphill in the snow, etc. and so on.

Zen is tough. That’s the whole point.

[Insert graceful segue to next section. Um. -mindblank- Ack! Quick, cute animal picture!]

redpanda

LFG PNP RPG

I am on the Evil Hat mailing list. Evil Hat are, among other things, responsible for the FATE Core tabletop RPG system and for the Dreaden Files rules, which are based on the eponymous series by Jim Butcher.

[/tangent: I am a rabid Dresden Files fangirl and will turn upon you the full weight of my two literature degrees – though even I fail to see how a French Lit. degree will help in this case – if you so much as cast an iota of the shadow of an aspersion upon those books. I am not rabid about many things. YHBW.]

Just as there is a FATE Accelerated ruleset, which is a slightly different, streamlined, more immediately accessible (‘grab & go’) version of the FATE Core rules, there will soon be a Dresden Files Accelerated ruleset. There has been an announcement. Said announcement includes a call for playtesters.

I AM SO THERE. I have already applied.

pickme

Unfortunately, it turns out that the spousal unit doesn’t have the head-space for tabletop RPGs at the moment. My single other player is, while a wonderful player, at best unreliable and at worst impossible to pin down for a facetime play session.

So I am left with an application in which I claim to have players I don’t, in fact, have (I should probably have checked with them first, huh?), and a tabletop gaming itch that hasn’t been properly scratched in a decade and a half.

I figure the quandary can be solved by finally selecting one of those newfangled virtual tabletop programs (as opposed to merely farting around with the idea as I did a year or two ago) and calling for players.

I am terrified of this. I like playing with people I know. I haven’t played tabletop games with strangers since Euro GenCon in 1993 or 4. But I figure most people here aren’t entirely strangers and some of them might actually be fellow Dresden fans, or players, or simply interested in the idea.

On the bright side, a) I likely won’t be picked anyway because there will be more applications than they need, and b) the decision isn’t made until the end of September, which gives me a little time. Playtesting would occur — I assume — during October and November (ish? guessing) and would require committing to 4-6 sessions over an 8-week period.

Deadlands

I’ve been wanting to run and/or play (but mostly run, I’ll admit, because I’m jonesing to write another campaign or three) for ages and have done nothing about it. I have a number of RL and e-friends in the same boat, some of whom read this. Let’s do something about it. Whether anything comes of the Dresden Files Accelerated testing or not, I have or can acquire any number of game systems including but not limited to FATE, Ars Magica (I’m a 2/3/4E + many house flanges girl for the most part), Deadlands (which I have never played but picked up on the Bundle of Holding a month or two ago and would love to try), Vampire and clones, AD&D, Shadowrun, Cthulhu etc. etc. etc.

As a GM I tend more towards cooperative story-telling than GM/Player competition. I heartily endorse this essential LOOK ROBOT post on being a great player, which applies just as much to GMs; here’s another very worthwhile post.

This is starting to sound rather painfully like I’m filling out an online dating site profile, so we’ll stop here.

And now for something completely different.

CHEESE

Cheese wins the poll so far, by a landslide 6 votes over 5 for pie. I knew I could count on the Dirty Half-Dozen. Yes, of course I forgot all about the poll until now. It’s not like it was important or anything. I live in a pie- and cake-tolerant world.

See you tomorrow, folks. (Also known as: Shooting Yourself In The Foot or Asking to Roll A Natural 1.)

– – – – – – – – –

* AKA I have no idea. It’s at least 60 based on counting new posts in my reader, and I still haven’t managed to add everyone.

Blaugust Day 24 – Shadowrun: Hong Kong – a brief review

You can get it on Steam.

It’s what I ended up playing the most this weekend, and although I’m only a little ways into it (I think) I figured a brief review wouldn’t hurt for those who are considering picking it up. Note that this, like any other review I might do, is entirely subjective and does not aim to offer anything but my own impressions.

I backed the Kickstarter campaign awhile back, not because I’m a Shadowrun PC game fan (I didn’t even know there had been any) but because I’m a Shadowrun the tabletop game fan. I had the first edition rules and a few modules, and for me Shadowrun is probably the tabletop game that got away — we played it a few times and I was keen to do more, but after the usual romp through D&D / AD&D our group went down the White Wolf path and into all things Vampire for a while before transitioning into Ars Magica, which is what we played for several years until I left for the States in 2001. (And what the group is still playing as far as I know. Without me. Bastards! I know some of you read this!)

Mr. Plastic-Face. Shouldn’t be creepy but is.

All of which is to explain that I approached the game as a tabletop role-player and not as a computer gamer. I had no particular expectations of the game other than that it would allow me to immerse myself in the rather fun Shadowrun mythos for a while. For an approach based more on having played the two previous PC games, check out Wot I Think on RPS; I agree with a lot of it from what I’ve played so far, but I wanted to add my own take on the tabletop or more RPG elements.

The intro is a rainy, grainy, typical cyberpunk/noir tale of things gone wrong shown through a series of moody and evocative semi-animated panels. Some will no doubt miss the grand and expensive full-action cinematic, but I loved the format because it leaves more room for my own imagination to fill in the blanks.

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After that you’re thrown into a normal computer-RPG adventure where you track down mysteries, deal with NPCs good and bad, help the downtrodden or do the treading, and gradually unravel both your own main story and the stories of the group that’s decided to help you out.

RPS is right in saying that there’s a lot of text, but — though I didn’t know it when I started — that was exactly what I wanted from this game. It’s been like playing a tabletop adventure where I’m the only meatsack player and everyone else is computerised, including the GM. The descriptions are long, ornate, even florid on occasion… and they bring me right back to the grand old days of reading out boxed text from Castle Greyhawk or the Temple of Elemental Evil. (It didn’t take us long to grow up from purely parroting those out to doing our own flavour and descriptions, but still, boxed text is just one of those things you never forget.)

Heoi

I’ve even kept the music on, which is something I literally never do in games because no matter how long the loop may be, it’s always a loop. And it’s often way too rumpty-pumpty martial or deedly-wheedly fake-Medieval for me to be able to bear it scritching at my brain for more than a few minutes at a time. The SR:HK music is low-key for the most part and well-adapted to the environments, although it does go up and down in volume in certain locations with no apparent rhyme or reason. I can live with that – even though I’ve kept the music turned on, I’ve also got the volume for it down to about 30%.

The exploration gameplay is fairly standard – click to move, right-click to pan, click on things to interact with them – and the combat gameplay is probably nothing too new either (I wouldn’t know, I don’t play many of these games). It’s turn-based and was quite easy to pick up on. This is a plus for me, since I’m far more interested in the story than in the combat.

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But it does lead me to one of the game’s failings, which is the utter lack of a tutorial. There are a few help screens that are more useful as a reminder than as an introduction, and basically that’s your lot. Fortunately I elected to play on Easy mode — because as I said, I’m far more interested in the story — and wasn’t penalised too badly for making the odd mistake; and after a few fights you pick up most of what you need to know. But still. There’s zero help on the Matrix and what you might want to do in there, or how, so it’s a good thing I’m a cyberpunk fan and could figure most of it out for myself.

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In the Matrix

There’s no real help on how stats and skills work, what builds you might want to use and how you might want to develop your character, other than rather ironic warnings that you don’t want to mess up your own development or that of your crew, because you can’t go back and that would be bad!

In fact after a few hours of play I restarted with a new character, partly because I did mess up my xp allocation a bit and partly because the archetype I chose (Decker, i.e. hacker) was already far better covered by one of my crewmates. My second character is a shaman and although there’s one of those on the crew also, two shamans on the same mission crew isn’t as redundant as having two deckers.

I played quite a lot over the weekend so I’m probably a dozen hours in. Not being very well-versed in these games I’m not sure how far into things I am, but it feels like I’ve just hit the opening of the second act — not even, in fact, because I have a couple of missions I want to wrap up before I move on (and the game kindly reminded me to consider doing just that). I’m a very slow player in these games because I like to read everything, talk to everyone, and interact with every last object, so a super goal-oriented playstyle might have got to the same point in 2-3 hours if not faster.

My character choices throughout have been consistent with the persona I play in most games: street-smart, cynical, skimming on the border between legal and not, but generally a decent person. I give NPCs the benefit of the doubt and let people live when they surrender (including the rather fun ghoul crew-member you can get). I try to find non-violent solutions where possible, and the game gives you quite a few of these and fully supports not killing everything in sight. I don’t shoot my mouth off too much — just enough to exemplify my characters’ usual distaste for any kind of authority. And so on.

vamp queen

All in all I’m having a great time, as evidenced by the fact that I totally forgot that I’d invited folks to check out the ARK server I can fire up when needed. ARK didn’t get loaded up at all; nothing did, actually, since SR:HK was the only game I did play this weekend.

I’ll definitely play some more as soon as time allows, and this might be the one and only SRPG game of the last 10 years I actually finish. For some reason I usually lose steam about two-thirds of the way through (DA:O, DA2, DA:I…). But I have a feeling that SR:HK’s combination of screen-based running around and text-based depth is exactly what I’m looking for in a SRPG. Yes, it has a few flaws — the lack of newbie help, for one, and the rather unwieldy inventory and team UIs; for example, I can’t check my crew’s stats when trying to buy weapons or armour for them — is that because their gear updates (which it may do, but not in any way that’s been mentioned to me in game) or because they forgot to include that functionality?

But ultimately, when it came down to spending crowdfunding on tutorials or content — as I’m sure it did — I’m glad they opted for content. I’m at a little over a dollar an hour for my entertainment right now and that’s excellent value for money in my book.

 

 

 

Blaugust Day 23 – Haiku Sunday

Foolishly, no doubt, I have decided to revive a short-lived theme I ran on this blog way back when in 2009; some of the haikus produced by yours truly and a few commenters have been reproduced below. Today’s theme, of course, must be Blaugust – use it if it inspires you, ignore it if it does not. Knock yourselves out or just mock my efforts.

Please don’t haiku-Nazi us about form, subject and imagery. This is purely for fun.

Sunday morning sloth.
My Basenjis look at me -
Why do this blog thing?

It’ll do for something yanked out from behind my eyes in 20 seconds.

I am definitely resisting the post-a-day Blaugust exhortation, and yet I am still doing it, hauling my unwilling ass to the keyboard every morning even though I know I absolutely don’t have to and would probably rather not.

This is typical me (typical me, typical me, I started something…) — I am not a joiner, but then I join things anyway and spend the entire time half-regretting the decision, ambivalent about being around so many people / so much of the time… and actually enjoying myself. Sometimes I wonder if I’m just a whiny old bag; I sincerely hope not, since being an actual whiny old bag (as opposed to playing one on my blog) is not something I aspire to.

Past Haikus

Melmoth – Theme: Socks
Cold feet in winter.
That stupid Tenacious D:
Rocking my socks off.

Sara Pickell – Theme: Tabula Rasa (just before the fold)
Leaves of amber tint
Glow angry red and blacken
In plasma and rain

Mallika – Theme: Sunday
Relaxing Sunday
Love it when we just stay home
Introverts unite

ArbitraryGenius – Theme: Instances
Just did an instance
there were just four of us there
it was meant for six

Melmoth – Theme: Don’t stand in the fire?
Dancing with spring’s joy.
Autumn’s colour follows him.
Underpants on fire.

Enric Darkstone – Theme: Haiku Sunday
Looking at your posts,
This is your first Haiku one.
Dante Inspired…? -_^

Ysharros – Response
This is the second
Haiku day theme we have had;
There will be others.

Enric Darkstone – Response
My apologies,
I must have missed that posting,
Carry on, madam.

Theme: Hardcore vs Casual

Me:
Did you know this axe
Can slice your head clean off, yep –
Feel lucky, carebear?

Makkaio:
I play a healer
Like it was a tank, so what?
I are L337 d00d3rz

Oakstout:
I love nice purples.
Crafting is my greater love.
How can I do both and live?

Capn John:
The deadliest beast
in Stranglethorn Vale is…
a bored 80.

Blaugust Day 22 – Poll Saturday

So I set up this post as a draft yesterday, fully intending to do a fun, exciting, fun, entertaining and FUN poll.

… But in the intervening time I have utterly forgotten what the poll was supposed to be about, and like the typical me that I am I failed to make a note of the proposed subject. Which is me in a nutsh— oh look, shiny!

Yeah. I don’t mind being me, but sometimes I wonder what it’s like to have a brain that doesn’t act like a cocaine-addled squirrel. It must be a lot calmer in there, being able to take a single thought to a logical conclusion. (I’d do another ooo shiny joke but I think I’ve beaten those at least half to death; let’s let the horse recover a bit.)

But Poll Saturday it is (this really needs a better name), so a poll we shall have. Let’s keep this first one simple and deal with an age-old internet and gamer question. There. That should be enough answers to ensure thoroughly useless results.

Ooo and that’s 10 sentences. I’m done here!