Introducing Categories

Just a quick little blog post to let you know I’ve created categories for my blog posts. This wouldn’t matter, except it gives a kind of structure to the posts I’ll be writing. The categories are as follows:

About Blog: Self explanatory. You’re reading one.

Game Impressions: I hesitate to call them reviews, as I’m not so much critically evaluating a game on its range of merits and drawbacks as I am simply describing my experience and light opinion of it. But, yes, these are basically those posts. These can also pertain to my thoughts on franchises, like Pokemon.

Gaming Industry: Any blog posts I write regarding the gaming industry will fall under this category. I’ve done a few in the past, but I haven’t recently and I don’t really plan on doing many in the near future. It is, however, a subject I can see myself writing about often, should my interest fall that way again.

Game Journeys: Do you remember Sven x Camilla, A Skyrim Misadventure? I want to write more blog posts like that. Indeed, this week’s blog post is another “Game Journey”. I find them exceedingly fun to write. They’ll typically have more screenshots than other blog posts, and focus on one event (or series of events) in a game presented in a (hopefully) comedic manner. They are narrative threads as opposed to thoughts pertaining to the game itself.

Other: In an attempt to quell stagnancy via conforming only to the above categories, this one exists for anything else I wish to write about gaming. For example, “Passive Roleplaying”.

So, ah, that’s that. Today’s blog post will follow shortly.

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Tauren the World (of Warcraft)

It is no great secret that I’ve spent hundreds, thousands of hours playing World of Warcraft. That being said, I’ve not touched nor paid for the game for a few months now, as I go through phases of being enraptured by and then utterly bored of it. Despite currently being in the latter phase, however, a friend of mine was interested in visiting the game’s free 20 levels, and having not uninstalled the behemoth yet, I hopped right on and made a new Tauren (I’m typically Alliance) to plod alongside him.

This is our tale.

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This humble tale began with a glitch. Merely moments after our mighty cow men set ahoof on their journeys, I discovered my Tauren Monk (whom you may call Swiftsnout) took his Windwalking ability a little too seriously. Essentially, Reecus (the aforementioned friend) interacted with a cage for a quest, and it despawned, failing to give gravity the heads up as to the updated state of affairs. I’d already been standing on it, so I got to float with extreme majesty.

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Moo.

We’ve all been questing, though, and it’s quite the rudimentary experience, even with friends. Reecus encouraged me not to focus on questing so much as simply having fun, as we were not aiming to level our Tauren much (as my account was still a Starter Edition and he had no intention of buying the game). It is with this mindset that we chose to meet up with another friend of ours, and begin our journey to Stormwind, kingdom of the monkey people.

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The zeppelin to Origrimmar, and subsequently to Undercity was a perilous experience. Cows were never made to fly, you see, and we soon discovered that the netting surrounding the sky ship had collision only on one side. Of course, the side in which it is possible to jump out of the zeppelin happened to be the side without collision, and soon we were all falling to our doom; some to our deaths.

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Reecus soon discovered that his body had come to rest atop this balloon, which he could not reach.

It mattered not. Soon we were embarking to Undercity, and from there we’d take the Orb to Silvermoon, for we’d not decided on our destination by then. After seeing the Dead Scar, however, a sort of direction formed and we went to go and see what was at the end of it. At this point I decided to equip my heirlooms (account-bound armour which yields bonus xp when worn) to increase my survivability should we run into any… difficulties.

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Enemies with a skull in their portrait are over ten levels higher than you.

It was with some amusement that we found ourselves underlevelled for this expedition! If we all worked together, we were usually able to overcome the odd skirmish or two, though why Reecus sent his pet chicken over yonder to pull hordes of enraged skeletons our way, I’m not sure I’ll ever fully understand.

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The Sea Turtle is a rare pet obtained from fishing, which is usable at all levels as it has no speed bonus unless in water.

Perhaps it was suicidal to enter the Eastern Plaguelands at such a low level. It did take some convincing, on my part. But with some honeyed words and a fantastically dashing turtle, or maybe just stubborn idiocy, I pointed us in the right direction. For anyone who has not played the game, Eastern Plaguelands is full of monsters levelled between 40 and 45 (if I recall correctly). We were around level, erm, 7.

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OH GODS!

We sprinted from flight path to flight path, treating them as checkpoints despite not having nearly enough silver to afford to be able to fly between them. Still, it gave us something to aim for, and as I perhaps forgot to mention to Reecus at the time, it would only get better from there on out as the layout of the zones decreased in level range. But, as you can see from the party interface, my poor Tauren friend had bit the dust already. Well, it’s a good thing resurrection exists in Azeroth, or we’d all be maggot meat.

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My snout was not swift enough.

I cannot begin to describe to you the horror of being forced to watch from beyond the grave as a Noxious Plaguebat hounded my companions.

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NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Well, anyway, I swiftly resurrected and headed for the next waypoint atop the hill, dogged every step of the way by a vile Plaguehound. Why is everything in this zone prefixed with “Plague” anyway? It might be accurate but it’s not exactly going to attract tourists.

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GUARDS, DO SOMETHING!

It was at this time Reecus asked us about PvP and neutral zones. You see, nobody in this game is a big lover of gnomes, not even those of the Alliance. In my opinion, they clash with the tone of the game and are generally just annoying little shits. I don’t know if Reecus shared my prejudices, but when we happened across a gnome with their PvP turned on, staring away at the horizon like it was about to erupt into a dazzling show of rainbows and unicorns, Reecus did what any honorable Tauren would do and swung for the midget.

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It was at this point that a dozen armed guards dashed towards him at lightning speed and ended his life in an instant, surprising everyone and causing the gnome to half turn in slight disbelief. What were a group of level 7s doing out in Eastern Plaguelands? And why were they trying to attack someone of a significantly higher level? Well, this could be fun. The dead Tauren would soon return to their body, and as PvP would still be enabled…

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Gnomes, ladies and gentlemen.

In retrospect, I’m not entirely sure why they activated their Explorer title before moving to attack us. Perhaps it was a show of kinship, an attempt to let us know that they, too, had wandered deep into uncharted territories and dived headfirst into combat with those out of their league. But surely, then, they’d know what would happen should they attempt to attack anyone within a neutral settlement. Even if not, they’d just seen it happen to Reecus! Well, I can’t say I feel guilty.

We never did make it to Stormwind, and I’m not entirely sure if we have plans to continue the journey. But it was certainly an enjoyable experience to take a level 7 Tauren out into the heart of Eastern Plaguelands, and a gentle reminder that sometimes it’s more fun to play games as they were not intended to be played.

Triple Whammy (Grapple, LYNE, and Qbeh-1)

Besides the ever-present Skyrim, I’ve not been playing all that much else in the way of gaming besides a smattering of smaller titles. There are three titles, however, which have caught my attention this week and I feel are deserving of a blog post!

 

The first is Grapple. You’re this groovy little blob and it is your absolute imperative to get from one side of the level to the other, ever-fearful of the spacial abyss which looms below you should you make a mistake, falling just too far of the platform which you yearn to reach. You are also the enemy of everything red, so don’t go touching that. You stick to everything like a Tory sticks to their outdated ideals (weyyy forced political joke). There are collectibles, multiple game modes (such as time trials and speed runs), and the physics engine is pretty darn gravy.

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…that was a close one!

I’m currently about a quarter of the way through the game and I find that there’s just enough challenge for my liking. I can become infuriated, but my rage is the quickly quenched by the following success. The levels are the perfect length, swinging is fun, collectibles are plentiful and hidden in a way that makes them missable, but not so much if you’re actively looking for them. It’s just fun, really. Oh, and it has a good soundtrack, too.

LYNE is marketed as a “deceptively simple” game, and I certainly wouldn’t disagree. All you have to do is match the shapes together and pass their lines through the octagons as many times as the octagons dictate necessary. I find that whenever I’m confronted with a level, I cry, “Simple! This one is simple!” And then I end up with a tangled mess like you see below:

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Just looking at it makes me want to solve it. Bleurgh.

There is a seemingly unending quantity of levels available. The base game is split up into sections of the alphabet, which have so far contained 25 levels each. However, the game also offers you procedurally generated batches of daily puzzles. It’s like having a big ol’ book of crossword puzzles, only the book has new puzzles at the back every day and instead of a crossword you’re looking at what should be a simply solved collection of shapes which stop you in your tracks.

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I tried to take a screenshot of me solving the puzzle, but I didn’t account for the bottom octagon. Blast!

Last but most definitely not least comes Qbeh-1: The Atlas Cube. This is the most incredibly beautiful puzzle platformer I’ve ever set eyes upon. It’s a weird cross between Q.U.B.E, Antichamber (the block-related parts, not the mind-bending geography) and community created Minecraft puzzle maps. The world is made of blocks, but you can only pick up a certain type of block and place it on a certain type of surface. When a block is place on a surface, you can then attach another block to it. Some blocks work as keys, others as gravity modifiers, but the red one you can just about see in the image below simply exists to be placed.

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Screenshots alone don’t really do it justice, but this should give you a general idea of the game’s atmosphere. Or at least, one of its worlds.

The game also comes with a level creator and Steam workshop integration, so you can build your own maps and share ’em. I’ve not done so yet, and probably won’t until I’ve beaten the game and gotten tired of scouring through the levels for collectibles. The collectibles usually entail finding out how to get to a secret section of the map, and then completing a few extra puzzles to reach it. It is plenty fun and challenging!

So, that’s what I’ve been playing this week. It’s worth noting that LYNE and Qbeh-1 are currently 99p and 69p, respectively, in the Humble Store winter sale. I’m no advertiser but that’s where I found these games, and I personally recommend them a lot.

Pocket Monsters! (Pokemon)

People say (or used to say) that Pokemon is for kids. You like Pikachu? Estimates indicate you’re probably five. Know all the Pokemon off by heart? Well, that’s simply unfathomable, and in no way similar at all to the banks of information others have in their minds regarding footballers or whatever.

Pokemon games are, of course, far less childish than the stigma would have you assume. It’s about strategy, and when you get into the metagame, it’s about natures, effort values, and individual values. When you pick your Bulbasaur, for example, in Pokemon Fire Red or Leaf Green (for the first generation lacked many of these in-depth features), you’re not just choosing Bulbsaur. Your Bulbasaur may be naughty, and proud of its power; it may be jolly and somewhat of a clown; perhaps it is simply docile, and takes plenty of siestas. These three different Bulbasaurs excel in attack, speed, and nothing much other than HP, respectively.

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Littleroot Town; Pokemon Ruby

But enough about the metagame. When I first played Pokemon, I was most excited about Pokemon Ruby’s sparkly cartridge. It looked different to most other cartridges! That was cool. I was also highly confused as to why I wasn’t playing as Ash, and after playing a little with Torchic I immediately went on to focus on Zigzagoon, or as I called him, “Spikydog”. Spikydog the, uh, raccoon Pokemon was a loyal companion and a loving friend, though I’ve no recollection of how far through the game he carried me. I recall being stuck on one of the gym battles, and never playing the game again.

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Pallet Town; Pokemon Leaf Green

I didn’t come across Pokemon again until a few years later in life when I acquired Pokemon Leaf Green. I must have been about 13, and had watched a Let’s Play on the game before trying it for myself, so I was a little less directionless this time around. It’s also worth noting that Leaf Green is just a tad more linear in its geography. To this day, I’ve still not been able to get into Ruby and Sapphire (or their remakes) as I have been most other Pokemon games. But still, after beating the Elite Four in Leaf Green, I did little more with my Pokemon life. No scouting for legendaries, no catching ’em all. I’d beaten the game already. So what?

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Twinleaf Town; Pokemon Platinum (Diamond & Pearl)

A year or two later I played Pokemon Diamond, and I think that this was the Pokemon game that really got me into the series. I was engrossed in the story, I’d named my Dialga Rassilon like every other Doctor Who fan, and what’s more, I’d resolved to complete my Pokedex, though this only entailed seeing them all now. Nevertheless, it still took me a while, and after all that work, the disappointing endgame and excruciatingly slow battle animations eventually drew me away from the game. It still holds a special place in my heart, though.

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New Bark Town; Pokemon Soul Silver

Pokemon Soul Silver was my favourite. It still might be, though it’s been ages since I’ve played it. The reason I’ve not played it in so long is due to the amount of legendaries I caught and the impressive collection I built up during my playtime. I chose Totodile for my starter, and he crunched his way through several gym leaders in quick succession. I caught every legendary available in that game except for Rayquaza (due to my lack of a Hoenn-born Kyogre) and one of the roaming dogs. I still have plans to transfer them all forwards to my current save, except…

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Nuvema Town; Pokemon Black

The fifth generation Pokemon games are by far my least favourite in the franchise. I know people like them, but Pokemon Black is just not the game for me. The general aesthetic of Unova and the UI felt too much like it was trying to be futuristic, and Team Plasma just… bored me. I’ve tried time and time again to beat the game so that I can move my 4th generation Pokemon forwards, but the closest I’ve got is the fifth gym and I just can’t bring myself to continue. I maintain hope that one day I’ll begin enjoying it so I can move my Pokemon forwards (for Soul Silver also holds my Leaf Green Pokemon), but that day is yet to come.

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Vaniville Town; Pokemon X

By the time I’d gotten round to Pokemon X and Y, my interest in Pokemon had waned. Black had demotivated me and I didn’t own a 3DS for a long time. But as I grew, I’d met more and more people who had a larger interest for Pokemon than I ever did. Eventually, towards the end of either 2013 or 2014 (I don’t remember which), I caved and bought a 3DSXL with Pokemon X. And honestly, it’s tied for my favourite non-remake alongside Pokemon Diamond. It feels like the most Pokemon game since the 4th generation, with the general aesthetic and all that jazz. It may seem like an odd compliment but I love the UI. It’s so colourful and bubbly and just, Pokemon. Another thing to thank Pokemon X for is creating official 3D renders of all Pokemon and allowing you to go full on Nintendogs with them, tickling them and feeding them treats and watching your fierce legendaries gurgle with happiness.

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Littleroot Town; Pokemon Alpha Sapphire

I must confess, though… my Pokemon X character is still shivering outside of the entrance of the eighth gym. I have an atrocious attention span, and if I’m not surrounded by other people playing Pokemon, I’m unlikely to play it myself, despite my enjoyment for the game. Similar, my character in Alpha Sapphire is yet to challenge his 7th gym leader, though I’m no great lover of the Hoenn region. I have many event Pokemon in these 2 games and have dabbled with breeding, growing my collection through Wonder Trade. But I am still yet to finish them.

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Pallet Town; Pokemon Blue

I can’t wait for Pokemon Red, Blue and Yellow to be released on virtual console. For the first time, I am going to attempt to catch all 151 Pokemon, with the help of some friends with alternate versions. Nintendo certainly didn’t miss a trick by implementing WiFi trading. I just can’t help but wonder if the Mew glitch will still be available…

Faendal x Camilla (A Skyrim Misadventure)

This isn’t going be your typical blog post because I’m currently knee-deep in deadline panic and have already written 1,500 words today! But a blog post there shall be, following up on last week’s post on Skyrim. I’m a little traumatized from some in-game events that took place a few minutes ago in-game, outside and inside my very own home. (Hey, I wrote 1.5k words today, I needed me some Skyrim.)

I know I said my High Elf was going to settle down for a while. It’s just… you see, I realised that my wife Camilla was having an affair.

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Faendal here had the gall to tease me by showing up outside my very house. The smugness in his voice could not be mistaken; this pointy bastard was sleeping with my wife.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not flying off the handle here for no reason. Camilla and Faendal have history, you see. Upon my first arriving in Riverwood, she was locked in a vicious love triangle with him and another pursuer named Sven. I don’t remember who approached me first, but each of them wanted me to fake a letter from the other to give to her, but I ended up simply marrying her myself after saving the world and proving that I was the better elf. Beforehand, however, I ended up faking a letter from Faendal and tipping the scales on Sven’s behalf. (Don’t worry, Sven met an unfortunate end before any of the events of this blog post happened.) As a result of this, and probably due to the subsequent marriage, Faendal held a fair amount of resentment towards me.

Oddly enough, Camilla kept the faked love letter and put it up for sale in our shop:

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Well, anyway, let’s return to today. After going rogue for a while and ultimately completing the Thieves’ Guild storyline, I decided to drop in on my wife and kids and let them know I was alright. Upon entering the premise, I discovered that my daughter had adopted an adorable little puppy! This was great news. I was home. The fire was going. The kids weren’t arguing. We had a puppy.

And then, to my left, came his voice. “Greetings, friend! It’s nice to see such a friendly face so far from home!”

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What.

What.

My world shattered. My eyes darted to my wife, who stared back at me with her eternal, unblinking gaze. I returned to Faendal. He eyed me from the shadows. They didn’t even care that I knew. Even my children were happily playing in the other room, probably happy in the knowledge that Uncle Faendal was home again, never mind their dear old Dragonborn Dad.

I had to make him leave. I couldn’t harm him, not here, not-

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Dear Talos, the bastard was asking for it. He was mocking me in my own home, cuddling up to my own wife. I understand that I’d not been there for her. I get that I’ve been absent. But she’s my wife.

This was inexcusable.

I was a law-abiding elf, once, intent on saving the world. But then I got roped into the civil war. I killed brave men. Lost Lydia. Lost Sven. Guilt consumed me, drove me to the Thieves’ Guild. The wolf’s blood ran thick in my veins and this abhorrent act was now punishable by my own hand, with no regrets.

It was time to be rid of Faendal.

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Camilla couldn’t watch; she turned her head away as her lover was murdered in front of her, the horror and guilt unreadable on her endlessly placid face. But damnit all, I was justified. This smug bastard came all the way from Riverwood to destroy the sanctity of my marriage. And I-

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Oh fuck.

Raised voices were heard. Guards were called. This one arrived at my house within moments of Faendal’s… dispatch. In a state of disbelief, this young milk-drinker turned to me and uttered out his duties as a guard; I’d committed crimes against the people of Whiterun. I was to be punish-

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You’re god damn right.

The guard left. Grimacing, I turned to face the wrath of my wife. I’d already taken her dear friend Sven under my wing and ended up killing him in a wolf-out; now I’d murdered her other friend in our own home, in cold blood. Surely she’d not forgive me for this. Life would be forever changed and Faendal, the bastard, will have won.

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My wife is either a cannibal, a necrophiliac, or a blank sheet of paper. All she did was thank me once again for returning the golden claw to her brother in Riverwood, before continuing to stir that pot of oh so lovely mammoth stew, and smiling. In a way, her indifference to the situation was more terrifying than my reaction to it. Taking this into consideration, I nudged Faendal’s corpse into the flames and took an early night’s sleep.

And we all lived happily ever after.