Friday, June 19, 2020

Mixtape Fire -- My Past Month in the Flames

Time flies and it's been a bit since I've posted on ye' ol' blog. Sorry about that.

Let's be honest though, I lost my drive to post about anything at all lately. Instead, I've been super fascinated with remixing songs from my past.

It all started about a month and a half ago when my friend and coworker Dennis Bestafka and his wife released their new EP for their band, Buona Sueno. I liked it so much that I remixed one of the songs that really spoke to me.

You can find the original song here: -- really the whole EP is great. Well worth your time.

I enjoyed making that remix . . . so much so that a couple weeks later I was listening to an old song I used to like while I was taking showers in the morning. It just kind of hit me that I needed to remix this song that meant so much to me.

Back in the early 90's I was driving to school in a light snowstorm after having a lucid dream involving a large cave with a waterfall shower. The heater was on in my mom's Geo Metro and "Fight Without a Reason" by Cetu Javu was playing from my tapedeck. It defined a very esoteric happy image in my mind.

This song probably doesn't mean much to many people, but to me, it's warm and beautiful.

Original song:

After that, one of my old friends from high school (and old band mates) said on Facebook: "Really good. Still waiting for a 2020 mix of Don’t Stop" Challenge accepted! Don't Stop was one of our songs we had written back in the day, so I crafted up a new remix of an old classic straight outta 1988. We called ourselves "Decussion Council," and here's our old pride and joy with new life:

Original song here:

By this time the remix theme was in full swing, and I just decided to keep going! Next up was a song that haunts me every once in a while. I've always been a big fan of The Cure. If I had the vocal stems for the song from Robert Smith, I would have used his voice instead of mine. It goes deep. It goes deeper still.

Original song:

Funny enough all the remixing was originally an idea I had hatched about a year ago, but after I started remixing the song Now My Heart is Full by Morrissey, I kinda just gave up.  It wasn't coming out right and so many people had already done the song and done it better than me.  Well.  I started to revisit the work I had already done, and it wasn't actually as bad as I was thinking.

As you've probably noticed by now, all the videos feature royalty-free stock footage. I stumbled upon some old commercial footage from the 70's and had an absolute blast putting this together. When the Shasta Rootbeer commercial synced up to the music, I was overjoyed.

Original song:

The next song is another song from my youth that I don't think many people remember. Back in 1987 Cabaret Voltaire released a record of mostly dance music that hailed to the styling of Kraftwerk: Funky, Glitchy, Great stuff. One particular track, Code, was always on the mix tapes I made for people. Because of that, I decided to do a Quarantined Remix of the song. It was more detailed and difficult than I originally thought. Enjoy!

Original song:

After this I just decided to end cap the whole remix project by redoing one of my old unfinished songs from the 80's. Back in 1989 I wrote a song called Bit by Bit. Only a handful of people had ever heard it. It was cute and full of love and longing and happiness.

I never did anything with the song, but it sat in my archives unfinished until last weekend. I managed to find the original lyrics I had written by hand in a folder in the closet. It only had ideas for the second verse, so I fleshed those out and finished it up. It always deserved to be given new life.

Original song: (It's on an old tape of mine and I haven't uploaded it)

So, what's next?  I've actually been looking into the costs of getting these tracks put on a vinyl record . . . maybe get like six copies made and send them to a few of my old friends. I'd love to surprise them with an actual record as a gift. :)

I don't know if the spark to keep remixing will stay with me, but it's certainly made being in quarantine a bit more bearable.

Happy Dueling

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Taking the Plunger into Paddles and Flippers

The very first electronic pinball game I think I played was the Wildfire handheld game.

Nice, right? I played that stupid thing for hours as a kid.  Later I turned to Video Pinball for the Atari.

I also played that thing for hours. So many hours. Now that I think about it, it's no wonder I can survive grinding in an MMO, but this post is neither about MMO grinding or old school pinball games, but rather a couple of games I've recently been playing that made me think about those wonderfully fun, old torture devices:
  1. Yoku's Island Express
  2. Pong Quest
Now I know, I know . . . Pong is not pinball, and if it is, I should have absolutely included Pong with the  above "pinball" examples, but look: PADDLES AND A BALL! IT WORKS, OK?!?!

Yoku's Island Express is a refreshing platformer that is all about moving your character through the maze through the magic of flippers, bumpers, and plungers galore. I've played plenty of platformers in my day, but none quite like this.

You're an ant that works for the post office and you're tied to a pinball!

It can be a bit frustrating at times, however -- you can get stuck trying to aim a ball in a general direction with less-than-accurate flippers. It's tricky and can lead to you getting stuck just hitting a ball over and over just trying to get it to go in the perfect direction. That act kind of trumps and coincides simultaneously with the typical frustrations found in platformer games, which is, as one person brilliantly put it, "puzzle solving for your reflexes."

I've only put a couple hours into this game so far, but I'd like to get a bit deeper to see what more it has to offer.

As for Pong Quest, I was kind of floored when I saw this interesting beast pop up on my Twitter feed from Atari.  It's not every day you see a skinny rectangle sporting outfits and undertaking an RPG, but here it is.

I'm a rectangular blue demon with a nose ring and a skeleton suit. Sounds about right.

I suppose it's the natural evolution of all things from my childhood and Atari has definitely proven that you can dress up a skinny rectangle and give it charm all its own.

The gameplay is everything you'd expect it to be and more. It's pong, but with all kinds of different ball types that you pick up while questing in a Zelda Rogue-like crawl.  Your inventory is limited, so you have to pick and choose which ball powerups you grab along the way, and that's the main frustration I had as well . . . I want all the powerups!  It's kind of amazing how many choices they give you. There are 58 ball power-up choices and I've only run across about half of them so far.

So many different types of pong balls!

There's tons of charm here after several hours into it. It was kind of fun having my kids plop down and play this one as well. Kind of strange that my 10 year old had never even played a pong game before. He struggled a bit, but then again . . . so have I! Some of the twists and turns the pong game throws at you are truly unexpected.

I made my enemy little with a shrink ball . . . MUHAHAHA!

Happy Dueling

Friday, May 1, 2020

Nice Mice and Lots of Brawl Stars Spice


How's your quarantine going?  Lemme know in the comments.

As for us, we've been watching a lot of Netflix and Prime Video. My wife got sucked into Ozark, and man is that stuff dark. It's awful watching a family put family first while breaking every moral code known to man and slowly descending a stairway to hell. Netflix has also presented us with a few interesting movies I probably wouldn't have watched otherwise, like Dinner for Shmucks.

Lately I've just had a big pull to my phone and the PlayStation VR.  My PC hard drive dying might have also played a little part in my PC game absence.

Forever my family has been on the hunt for our copy of Moss that we got for Christmas. Yup, we've been looking for our copy of the game since it got put to the side in favor of Beat Saber and then "lost" in the shuffle of Christmas cleanup.  Eventually we decided to really clean the kids area upstairs and pecked through every corner. This whole time I've been looking for a CD case, but come to find out it was a simple piece of paper with a downloadable code on it.  In fact, I almost threw it out when my wife handed me a big wad of "looks like junk" papers. 

What is Moss?  Oh!  It's an adorable story-based 3D platform puzzle game where you go through a series of levels playing as an adventuring mouse named Quill.

The only problem, as said earlier in the post, I watched Dinner for Shmucks the night before I started playing the game. If you're not familiar with the movie, Steve Carell plays an idiot savant who makes taxidermized mice dioramas.

Now I can't help but think that I'm playing inside of one of these creations when I play the game, which is a great game, but now it just has this taxidermized mice diorama shadow over it. I'm going to need a bit of time to forget the movie so I can enjoy the game.

Don't get me wrong. I liked Dinner for Shmucks; it's a really funny brom-com flick and the mice dioramas are definitely adorable . . . I just can't get them out of my head when I play the game, so it's spoiling the experience.

As for mobile games, I'm still playing quite a bit of Brawl Stars. I'm up to 7242 trophies as of this morning and climbing (stops to play a couple games of Showdown with Bibi). I'm up to 7258 trophies as of this morning and climbing!

I really love this little mobile game battler. I'm also pleasantly surprised by how vibrant the creative community is for this game. I mean, it is a Supercell game, so it's to be expected that it's a quality game and would have a following, but if you haven't checked out their "maker" website for the game, you're missing half of the fun. Their current campaign is titled Bibi and Bae: Hero or Villian? The request is that those artists who can make 3DMax skins for the game choose to make a model that represents either character as a hero or villain, and there are some super cool skins being made here.

MikeblueG has created a skin that re-envisions Bibi as a futuristic gladiator that definitely got my vote.

The good news for me is that I ordered a new PC hard drive and have a couple games I'm eyeing for future blogposts! 

Happy Dueling!

Friday, April 17, 2020

Taking a VR Vacation From a Quarantined Reality

Something that's been rolling around in my head since I was "all-in" on Project Gorgon is that I really just want to play some games with quality graphics. It really does feel like I was living in graphical hell for several months, and now I think I'm naturally craving a bit more quality.

Last Christmas brought my kids the joys of the Playstation 4 and the Playstation 4 VR. For them the biggest hit, and all they really wanted to play, was Beat Saber. I couldn't even get in time on the PS4 because they were constantly on it or the wand controllers needed recharging when it was "my turn," and to be honest, all I was thinking about game-wise on my spare time was P:G.

Fast forward to today, we're all in quarantine from the Covid-19 pandemic, and I've been going a little crazy being cooped up inside the house all day. The kids lost interest in Beat Saber months ago, and so finally I was able to sneak on to the PS4 and play a bit myself.

It's so incredibly cool to play this game, and not only that . . . putting on the VR headset completely separates you from what you typically see with your eyes. You're in the videogame world at that point. You look around and all you see is space and the floating cubes that demand they be lightsaber-ed in half by the funky beats dropping in your ears.

After getting a pretty good workout from Beat Saber, I moved on to another VR game that my kids had hardly touched: AstroBot.

I love this little guy so much

I guess what I most wasn't prepared for was the absolute visual vacation I was about to undertake with this game. No longer was I trapped inside the quarantined walls of my home staring at screens. Now the frame of the world around me was gone, and I was living inside what felt like a Disneyland ride.

After playing one level of AstroBot, I ran downstairs to my family and was like, "Why didn't anyone tell me about how amazing this game is?" They looked at my like I was insane, and yes, I was kind of freaked out. Honestly . . . freaked . . . out.

My family loves Mario-eque platformer puzzle games as it is, but AstroBot feels and plays so incredibly well. I paused several times to just sit back and enjoy the world I was now vacationing in inside my own home. I think I actually started to tear up a bit from smiling so much while playing this game. AstroBot was exactly what I needed.

Dance little man, dance!

The spot pictured above was one of those points where I just laid back in my chair and watched the waves rolling, the sky scrolling, and the palm trees animating rhythmically in the distance.

This is now something I've been putting an hour toward every day this week, and so far I've been high up in the sky walking through canyon rock trails, inside the belly of a whale, and, yes, even down to a dark cave full of bats and traps. Last night I was trapped in a spike ceiling room where I had to throw ninja stars at buttons before the spikes impaled me. It felt awesome to finally experience that. HAHA!

That's another thing about this game, you really get to use the touch pad sensitivity of the PS4 controller.  At points during the game, your controller is used to throw ninja stars, squirt water, shoot out a grappling hook, and even launch your little astro-bot buddy into the sky.

This game just has so much going for it. It's so much fun that I actually can't wait to play it again and continue on my vacation from a quarantined reality. It really feels like the perfect time for this kind of game to enter my life.  What a treat.

Happy Dueling!

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Not Six Fan Arts, but Six Fan Songs!

Last week I decided to do the #SixFanArts challenge on Twitter. At first, I was serious about trying to draw some fan art, but after spending about 20 minutes trying to draw a simple mander, I was like . . . yeah, I'm not an artist, but then it hit me, you know what . . . I AM an artist, just not that kind of artist.

So I decided to do #SixFanSongs instead!

My followers on Twitter had some interesting tastes! Being that most of my followers like Wizard101, about half of the characters were from Wizard101, but even those choices were a little esoteric. Officer McRuff? LOL!

At the end of the day, my line up of characters looked like this:

- Mander
- Bartleby
- Quirrel
- Yubel
- Officer McRuff
- Zenyatta

Whew . . . it took a few days of downtime to put them all together, but I hope you enjoy the results.

Happy Dueling!

Monday, April 6, 2020

Brawl Stars' Small Spars Gives Great Memoirs

I've been playing a ton of a great PvP-based mobile game by Supercell. You know Supercell, don't you? You should if you don't. They are the legendary mobile gaming company behind mega million making games like Hay Day, Clash of Clans, Clash Royale . . . and this particular game I've been playing, Brawl Stars!

It's certain death for Stingy.:(

Brawl Stars is epic! To sum it up, you collect heroes who have unique weapons and power moves, and you play with them in various PvP modes to earn coins, leveling tokens, and trophies.

The 30+ heroes in the game are cute and cartoonish, which immediately makes the gunfire, explosions, and chemical warfare seem much more fun and less in the realistic vein of Call of Duty.

Still feeling excited from pulling this epic brawler in a mega box last night.

The variety of modes keeps it interesting (I think there's about 9 different modes) and you'll be playing everything from a battle royale between 10 players to a co-operative boss hunt mode. You unlock these modes as you play the game and earn trophies.

That's another interesting thing about Brawl Stars, there's the regular currencies (including loot boxes), but there's also a nice "battle-pass" like progression system for earning rank that unlocks new characters, lootboxes, event tickets, and more. I'm calling it a currency, but really trophies are a progression system that tracks your rank and awards you goodies based on how far along you are in "trophy road."

At 2099 trophies, I'm only just starting my journey on Trophy Road.

The quick 3-5 minute matches keep you discovering how to play the game in new ways with new heroes. Honestly, I'll say for me it's the leader of the pack when it comes to this kind of pvp mobile game.  For me it's like Overwatch lite on my phone. I mean, they even had an e-sports broadcast over this past weekend.

That chat stream was too fast to read.

My recent goal in Brawl was to get all my characters to rank 10 . . . DONE! My next goal is to hit rank 15 (Diamond rating). Things apparently get a lot harder at higher ranks and eventually losses in Brawl Stars become more punishing.

If you haven't given it a shot, it's well worth the space on your phone.

Happy Dueling!

Thursday, April 2, 2020

I'm a Smack Talking Bear in Wizard101

So, about a year ago or so, my work buddy Mike Sears let me know that there was a spot in the new Sinbad and the Iron Sultan gauntlet that needed a touch of ambient voiceover. Granted most people are gonna just skip past this spot in Wizard101 as they hurry on their way through the dungeon, but if you're an explorer type of person, you might just take the time to slow down and wander just a bit to the left and over to this shady group of characters.

A Grizzleheim Pirate, an Aquilan Warrior, and a Valencian Rogue walk into a bar . . .

Mike wrote several funny lines and sent them over for me to take a look at . . . done.  About a week later, thee one and only Mr. TJ O'Leary had set up a meeting with me and Mike in his office where the door was closed and the mic was turned on, and the only internal monologue I could hear was, "OMG IT'S HAPPENING!"

Now ya' gotta understand. For seven years I had been bugging TJ, Mike, and anybody else in the creative and sound teams to find a way to put me in the game. I think I even begged for it to happen a couple times on KI Live. In fact, when the Avalon expansion was released, I actually tried my hand at auditioning for a vocal part, but I didn't make the cut. So, this was a pretty big deal for me. LOL!

When I was doing the voiceover, I kind of transformed my whole body to become "the braggadocios bear."

He's got jokes for days . . . or at least 15 minutes . . .

When I did my voiceover lines, I held my hands like they were big bear paws, I cocked my head back like a cocky piece of work, and I let the bullcrap talkin' bear loose from inside me. I had an absolute blast recording those lines.

When the gauntlet finally hit the streets, I logged in, redeemed my gauntlet, and recorded a couple of the voice over lines, grinning ear to ear.

I ain't one for braggin', see? ;)

The Entrance to the Sinbad Gauntlet beckons you!

So, if you happen to have this gauntlet or see this little spot in someone's player housing. Come meander over to the bear . . . I'm sure this Grizzleheim outlaw would love for you to overhear his conversation between an Aquilian and a Valencian.

Happy Dueling!

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Pushing Past the Pianissimo Pessimisms

I don't usually talk music on this blog, but thanks to a bout of quarantined introspection, recently I've been looking back at a few of the tracks up on my soundcloud page:

The past few days, I'm starting to realize that I never fully recovered from my old band mate committing suicide last year. After the news, I tried to just cleanse myself of all the stuff we wrote together and pushed it out in two big soundcloud dumps.

His death hurt. It took all the steam out of me, but the show must go on and I still have been able to work a bit on music regardless. This too shall pass.

At first I wanted to make a set of tribute songs to 80's and 90's music that helped frame my life. That was just too overwhelming, and I couldn't quite rise to the essence that made those songs so special to me. Ha! I did manage to remake 1/3rd of the song Now My Heart is Full by Morrissey.

Another little experiment I did with my daughter's help was I would go to her and have her give me themes and ideas, then I'd go try to stretch myself by writing a jam around whatever inspiration she offered me. I called our project "Happy Sounds Good" based off of the Dairy Queen "Happy Tastes Good" promotion that the My Brother My Brother and Me podcast made fun of.

I've only shared these, uh, happy hardcore-esque jams with a few people, but I might as well get them out here on my blog. Now presenting! Three jams I wrote in the summer of 2019! Tada!

The last "music assignment" from my daughter was to write a song that combined the sounds of biting into a Kit Kat with electronic bubble popping . . . but I switched computers since then and haven't even installed music software on my computer yet. I really need to get that going again. Yes, it's been a tough couple of years for me musically, but I think I can overcome it all.

To be honest, and this may sound out of left field, what I'd really like to do now is just sell my drum set and buy an electronic one . . . for some reason in my mind I'm thinking that'll help.

Then again, that's another thing that kind of crashed for me last year.

About once a month I used to go jam with a couple of guys in a tucked-away studio near downtown Austin. It was great to get all that energy out on a drum set, you know?

. . . but . . . I had to call this quits after developing Tennis Elbow from playing too aggressively while also playing so infrequently. LOL! I can laugh about it now, but it really really hurt to play the drums for a while.

So to sum it up . . . let me know if you like what you hear or have some great thoughts to share. My music is probably not your style, but any positive thought could go a long way.

Happy Dueling

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Raid Shadow Legends: It gave me the Bird

The game everybody loves to hate is Raid Shadow Legends. I ain't kidding. I watched a 13 minute long rant video on YouTube (which I won't link here due to language) that DESTROYED not only Raid Shadow Legends, but the players who play it, and the advertising companies who continually hound him about being sponsored by Raid Shadow Legends. Oof. Brutal.

Raid itself has inspired an entire truckload of memes simply based on its aggressive YouTube advertising and sponsorship.

FYI, this post isn't sponsored by Raid Shadow Legends

Beyond that, the reviews have been scathing: "Absolute Hot Mitigated Garbage." Or how about this one where it proclaims Raid Shadow Legends is "the epitome of pay to win."

So . . . now that we know all that . . . right? *Deep Breath* Can we just appreciate the fact that Sensortower estimated the game most likely generated 7 million dollars in profit in February 2020 alone? Despite all of the hate and all of the warnings and all of the memes, mobile gamers are in fact playing it and paying for it; they're thoroughly enjoying their hot mitigated garbage and happily paying to win.

None of the vocalized hate can stop the money making machine that is Raid Shadow Legends from trying to get "you" to play, and I guess that does naturally feel invasive and like you're falling into a viral trap, but isn't that just marketing fallout from a game that generates much more money than it costs to make and advertise? I didn't let the furor stop me from downloading it.

Speaking of marketing furor, let's see what's behind door number one:

Anyway, a few work friends who enjoy mobile games are playing Raid, and yup, I'm one of 'em. For me, however, the game is now headed to the downward side of my attention span. I have four level 60 heroes, completed the battle pass, completed the campaign map into Brutal mode, and claimed all of the Amazon Prime rewards. I can now put a pretty sizable dent in the Clan Boss (for a new player at least), and I'm sitting in the gold ranks for PvP.  I'm good now. I've played it pretty deep.

I'd say my Raid apex point was reached one day when I pulled yet another "trash rare" out of a shard. Mind you, I've never won a legendary from this game that I didn't buy and then earn in the Battle Pass (and TBH that legendary isn't that great).

Every time you bust open a summoning shard hoping for the cooler edges of the Gacha to happen, there's this feeling of . . . COME ON, COME ON, COMMMME ONNNNNN . . . BAM! UGH! NO!

Hello there, C rank Rare . . .

But let me tell you it was also that exact moment when I discovered Hal . . . my trash rare HERO!

Now typically you're going to take a character like this and simply use it for food as you level up another character with more potential or maybe use it for a very specific case. But I looked at Halberdier . . . and his helmet suddenly appeared more like something else thanks to a couple of well-placed ventilation holes in his helmet:

Hello there, HalBIRDier!!

. . . and I fell in love. At that point I had found everything I ever really want in a game: dumb meme material. I mean, screw trying to get legendaries and S-rank heroes, HalBIRDier is here to save the day!

"See" what I did there?

Now when my Raid buddies were talking about min maxing and how to get the most bang for your buck with artifact efficiency, I would simply interject with a new statement from Hal.

Hal has to eat too you know!

He was right there to chime in when Plarium gave us all 2000 Energy to combat the Coronavirus Quarantined blues.

It really was awesome to get all that free energy.

Hal was even there to chime in on things like love, happiness, and death at the start of every day.

Did Hal sound a bit ironic quoting Dr. Seuss like that?

So here's the moral of the story, kids, when life hands you C-rank rares in Raid Shadow Legends, make Bird-onade. Whether you want to banish Raid down to the depths of the deepest hell, actually enjoy playing it, or simply admire the revenue it makes . . . Hal will be there for you to understand your uniqueness. Some birds are not meant to be caged.

Happy Dueling

Friday, March 20, 2020

Finding the Zen in Overwatch

I haven't talked much about it here on my blog, but I'm still playing Overwatch every Wednesday night with my coworkers. I first mentioned our group back in August 2019, but I'm pretty sure we've been at this for over a year now. (KI Krushers never stuck as a team name *frown*)

For most of our group, the Wednesday night game has become our only time spent in Overwatch for the entire week. Because of this, our CR ratings have suffered or floundered a bit. I feel like you can't really REALLY get good at this game unless you have a knack for being nimble-fingered, watch a ton of training videos, or play until the game just flows through your veins. I kind of feel like we're not alone here though. I'm sure they're more of us dirty casuals than there are Overwatch Adonis dopplegangers.

That all said, man, we had some solid placement matches this week! Things have really evolved in Overwatch over the past year: new heroes, hero balancing, role locking, and now hero rotation (being the most recent change) to name a few.

Hero rotation can be really impactful, or not at all, depending on which character you typically play in game. Now every Thursday in competitive play, four or five characters get put out of play and are unable to be used. Last week that took away several of the characters our team typically plays, and it had me doing something I typically don't do . . . playing Zenyatta.

Throwing a fastball or two at Orisa! Talk to the hand!

I have the "Fastball" skin on Zenyatta that turns him from looking like a robot monk into a robot shortstop, and it felt amazing to break him out for some reason. In fact, he was pretty much all I played for our comp games on Wednesday! I was putting Orb of Discord on people and calling it out in our Discord channel like it was made for that purpose. BOOM! And for the most part it worked really well. Put Discord on someone and they really start taking damage or flee until it goes away.

After our matches I went back into the game to use another newer feature in Overwatch that I LOVE -- Replays. I imagine most people use Replays to watch their game play over so they can improve or really digest what happened in a match.  Me?  I'm looking for screenshot moments! :)

Here's a few I snapped from our first game of the evening:

Velo looking as fierce as a Hamster can.

I fear the day that Velo can't play on his Hammond character. He really knows how to disrupt the enemy team . . . especially if there isn't a Mei on the other side. ;)

Are you really not going to shield against Kajind's Hanzo?

In our first match of the night, we believed we had a Reinhardt player who was trying out Sigma for the first time. It was pretty bad. He was consistently out of position without a shield, and boy did we take advantage of that.

Show 'em who's the better Sigma, Snarky! 

Sigma's bare feet were a perfect target for my fastballs turns out. ;)

Some people go for headshots, not me! Footshots FTW. 

Figuring out when to drop Zen's ultimate is all about the timing. Transcendence makes me invulnerable, and everyone around me gets a ton of healing. Typically you wouldn't want to use it for trying to save your team from rip tire, but I was nice and cozy here when I was obviously his first intended target. The blast has a radius, so you can typically save a few people, but at the epicenter of riptire is a 600 damage bomb, and no amount of healing will make you safe. The people on the fringes of the explosion will be good though.

He circled me a few times with the tire hoping trans would end early. 

Fastball coming in! 

It became kind of comical how out of position this guy was. 

This last screenshot I have for you today was of the enemy Symmetra. I just loved how tech noir this shot looked. I mean, two seconds later she died a horrible death to Hammond and Pharah, but thanks to the Replay feature, I got a shot I wouldn't mind using as a Desktop Background. ;)

As a bonus she's wearing the new Holi skin!

I may have played a lot of Zen in the games on Wednesday, but I really found the "zen" by going through the replays after the matches. The ability to zoom around and pan to epic moments in replays is probably the coolest thing about Overwatch for me.  I wish replays like this were more a standard feature in all games . . . as impossible a request as that might be.

Happy Dueling!

Sunday, March 15, 2020

GW2: It's such a pretty (confounding) game

About a week ago I was talking with a few of my old friends from Team Spode. We have our own Discord channel, and I drop by to say hello once in a while to see how their adventures in DCUO and otherwise have been going.

It was there that I started chatting with my old gaming pal, Ellie aka Clever Clara, who has been thoroughly enjoying the World vs. World PvP in GW2 for several years now. Lord Spode of Team Spode also mentioned that he still drops in daily to collect his rewards in GW2 . . . and he's been doing this for 3 or 4 years.  He logs in, he grabs his stuff, he logs off.  Amazing, the dedication on that one.

The Heart of Thorns beckons you deeper into this tangled web of a blogpost.

This got me to thinking about my Necromancer in Guild Wars 2, so I loaded up the game and logged in. It immediately struck me all over again just how pretty this game is . . . especially after playing the visual mess known as Project Gorgon for so long.

Here it's as if I'm constantly running and jumping through a concept artist's portfolio, leaping from one page to the next. It's such a pretty game.

The level of detail in Lion's Arch is staggering.

It was also then that I remembered I haven't picked up the Heart of Thorns or Path of Fire expansions, and lo and behold a THIRD expansion is now in development!

That's a perfect storm: friends still playing, tons of content I haven't explored, a visual feast after a season of starving, and promises of a bright future. SOLD!

So after picking up the HoT/PoF expansion bundle, I jumped into the new content only to remember . . . oh crap, combat in this game is lengthy, I don't remember anything, and there's a bunch of "things" now like wings and mounts. Oh man, what have I done?

In fact, I spent a few days just logging on, playing 15-20 minutes, and logging back off in frustration thinking perhaps I made a mistake . . . until last night.

  I'm in blue and that's my crew!

Clara gathered the troops yesterday, and soon I was playing GW2 with my old podcasting friends of Ravenwood Radio and Spiral Radio fame. Yup, Steve, Icy, and John . . . all in one group!

I can't even explain what a relief it was to get on a Discord call and have John talk us through the UI, new features, and the world event in the Verdant Brink. A little handholding and laughs between old friends goes a long way to establishing some hope.

We played around for a couple hours and broke the group for dinner, but I logged on later and did just a bit more of my story quest, just enough to take on this wicked vine beast.

Scary vine wyrm thingys are scary!

So there you have it . . . I'm back in GW2 for a bit to explore new content, hang with some old friends, and learn new tidbits of information: things like, Friendly Necromancers can now wield giant two-handed swords! Looks like it's the season of the Reaper for me in Guild Wars 2.

Yup, that's about the size of it.

Happy Dueling!

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Dungeon Keeper Mobile: It wasn't made for you

I'm continuing to look for good dungeon making games and decided to give the mobile version of Dungeon Keeper a download.

What's interesting here is that back in 2014, this game was raked over the coals by fans and media who weren't ready for a free-to-play mobile version of the games they had grown to love: Dungeon Keeper 1 and Dungeon Keeper 2. Games, which to be honest, I've never even played. 

(Um, Yeah, I uh, wanted to play them, but I was too busy with other games to give them a shot at the time. *grin*)

Because of this, I did a lot of reading when I downloaded the game, and I found some really good quotes . . . gems of thought about the release as it were.

Is your pocketbook ready to train all these monsters?

To illustrate what I'm talking about, let me quote IGN's review of the game:
"The original Dungeon Keeper thrives on speed and the frantic rush to build your dungeons and set up traps before heroes arrive; under this model, clicking on the campaign maps that unleash the adventurers to face their doom feels more like a pulling the string on a wind-up toy and watching it until it slows down and dies all too quickly. Attempt to play Dungeon Keeper at the pace of the 1997 version, and you'd find that your bank account drains faster than your dungeon's gold hoards after heroes reach them. Having any fun in this game would cost a fortune. "
Probably the harshest of reviews came from Eurogamer which gave the game and appalling 1 out of 10. It was so harsh that Andrew Wilson, CEO of Electronic Arts, sat down for an interview with Eurogamer at E3. It's an amazing read to be honest . . . especially for someone in the business of making mobile games..  I especially like this particular paragraph:
Who is to blame for that? Don't blame the developers, Molyneux pleaded. They're just doing their job. Instead, point the finger at "analytics people" who impose tried and trusted monetisation techniques on the gameplay, forcing players to do this and that at this time and then in order to get X and Y number of gems. It's a carefully crafted, heavily researched dark art that players of many free mobile games are familiar with. Indeed, for millions of gamers this kind of monetisation is all they know.
This was even further discussed in a Kotaku article that juxtaposed fans of a long standing PC title that had been converted into a free-to-play mobile game. The title of the article itself is amazing: "Welcome To Mobile Gaming, Angry Dungeon Keeper Fans" LOL! 

The article explains Mobile gamers to PC gamers and why this game in particular caused things to come to a head:

"These mobile gamers play for distraction instead of passion. They are passing the time. They aren't as emotionally invested in what they are playing, so when a meter or timer pops up, it doesn't affect them as strongly. They have no experience paying $60 to play a game — to them, microtransactions are the way these things are done.  
They're unwise to the ways of the greater gaming world, and they won't be wising up anytime soon. When they pick up their phone or tablet with gaming in mind, they're going to play. They aren't going to surf the web for forums. They aren't looking for a gaming site to see what new mobile games are on the horizon. They're in their own mobile gaming bubble. Games pop up on their screens. If they look interesting, they will play them. If the game's got the right addictive formula, they'll pay to play. 
They're odd. They're casuals. They're also legion. "
The article comes to a brilliant one-line realization within its apex: "The Real Problem with EA's New Dungeon Keeper — It Wasn't Made For Us" 

It's funny . . . I see harsh reviews of mobile games by PC Players and that line just resonates in my mind "It wasn't made for you."

With all that in mind . . . the Dungeon Keeper I played over last week wasn't a terrible mobile game to be honest, and there was a lot I liked.  It kind of seems like EA might have even backed away from the harsher monetization timers that were originally in the game.  Clicking on a wall of dirt to remove it didn't take an hour . . . it took 3 seconds. I was quite easily able to craft a couple of nice long walkways that would keep my opponents wandering around while the timer ticked away.

Welcome to my dungeon! MUHAHAHA!

I loaded it full of doors and traps and spent the week leveling up my traps and storage bins. Yes, things could have gone A LOT faster if I was paying, but I was taking it like I take most of my mobile games: casually and afk.

There really is no rush here at all to be honest. You build a bit, click to collect your gold and stone, raid a couple other people's dungeons, and log off while your timers are ticking. And honestly, I'm not trying to be the biggest or the baddest in this game, but I must say I loved watching a couple replays where people couldn't 3-star my dungeon. MUHAHAHAHA!

I'm sure I haven't "seen nothing yet" as this game has been around so long that the people at the top of the game who have been playing since 2014 must certainly have crazy impenetrable fortresses. I shudder to think of my skeletons and trolls trying to make it through more difficult player-crafted dungeons.

All in all, this was a nice casual dungeon making distraction from last week.  Probably my favorite "feature" was that you were forced to slap an imp to even load into the game.


If anything, this experience made me more excited to download the old Dungeon Keeper games and play through them.  Since you can find 'em online now for pretty cheap, they're now on my list of things to play.

Happy Dueling!

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Legend of Keepers: Who's the Dungeon Master Now?

Recently I've been craving a good dungeon-maker game. My first thoughts turned to old hits like Dungeon Keeper and the now defunct Dungeon Empires (too bad it's no longer around, I really liked that game), but in hunting for those games, I stumbled upon a little steam game called Legend of Keepers. This particular demo or "prologue" is of a game in development and was pretty fun!

It feels like you should be fighting Voltron, doesn't it? I call false advertisement!

In essence, you've been hired to engineer dungeon room encounters to keep adventurers at bay. It plays a bit like the card game Boss Monster without the complexity.

Play inside your dungeon goes a bit like this:
  1. You place monsters in your dungeon. 
  2. You place traps in your dungeon. 
  3. Adventurers proceed through your dungeon.
  4. Trap rooms activate and do damage or reduce morale of adventurers.
  5. Monster combat is turn-based and you play back and forth until the adventurers die (or run away in fear) or your monsters die.
  6. If the adventurers make it to the final room, they fight the boss of the dungeon and do damage.
  7. Choose from 3 random rewards and complete the week.  
I really liked the Ulazra's Quagmire ability. 

Think of your boss at the end of the dungeon as a tower in a tower defense game. If he takes damage from one group of adventurers, he'll still have the damage applied to him when the next group of adventurers attack him in the coming weeks.

Your boss is pretty tough, but can he make it through to the end? No problem!

Ultimately you'll be playing through 52 weeks of the dungeon's life cycle. In a way, the progression feels a little like another game I've talked about, Slay the Spire, but without the mystery and unknown of a branching path and definitely in reverse . . . you're the villain of the story here. After combat, you'll have a few weeks of random encounters, merchants, and monster therapist visits before the next group of adventurer's enters your dungeon.

It's tough work . . . your monsters are gonna need some quality time to get through it.

You use these "off weeks" as time to heal monsters, resurrect them from the dead, improve your traps, and buy new nefarious surprises for your dungeon.

The Circular Saw trap is also one of my favorites. Bzzzzzt! DIE ADVENTURERS!

There can be a bit of strategy here. For instance, you can get an artifact that improves skeleton statistics and focus on skeletons in one room, which could lead to extra bonuses depending on your monster passive abilities.

If you enjoy the thought of making your own dungeon, this is definitely worth the free download, but if you REALLY enjoy the game you can go one step further and get the "supporter's edition" of the game for 5 bucks and unlock a new dungeon boss and dungeon theme.

I'll be looking forward to a full release of the game in the future. Consider yourself added to my watchlist, Legend of Keepers! GG!

Happy Dueling

Friday, February 28, 2020

Playing Lost and Found in Rift

I did it!  I found my old level 42 cleric in Rift! He was buried away in a "trial" server with about 10 other characters. I just needed to shift my "Shard" at the selection screen and track him down.  Once I did that and renamed him, it was as simple as shifting him over to a playable shard.

I loaded him up, logged in and found myself in the beautiful wintry world of Iron Pine Peak. Looking at the map also told me I was over-leveled to be in this location, so all was well . . . I could mostly wander around and not have to worry too much about getting into a scrap I couldn't handle. I even killed a cat while not knowing my skill points were all reset.

Iron Pine Peak . . . that's a pretty decent sized chunk of land to explore!

Then pressing B for bags revealed something terrifying . . . a 9 year old stash of goods where I had no idea what was what.  If you're an old time gamer that loves to revisit MMOs, I'm sure you've felt the same panic and fear.  What in the world is going on here? Oh no . . . Buff Scrolls?!?! Crafting Supplies?!?! HELP!

What in the world are these full bags and mishmash-ed skill bars? I'm terrified!

My ability bars were a tragic mess and come to find out I needed to completely respec my character.  It was an absolutely terrifying 10 minutes that resulted in me finding a lot of lost and forgotten items. I imagine it's like someone renting a storage shed, leaving the country, and coming back nine years to find a pile of strange microwaves and coffee pots they had completely forgotten about.

My favorite "lost coffee pot" that I found was a cosmetic pet I had named "Lil' Wally" since I bought a card that came with him at Walmart. I think it's a frog?

Yes, you're alone, but you've got a frog and a pixie, so things can't really be that bad can they?

I ended up choosing an "easy" build with a healer pet and we spent some quality time killing mobs and completing quests in my immediate vicinity . . . things like winter wolves, mountain cats, evil cultists, fire elementals, and six-legged basilisks.

It was a good couple hours of fun last night re-experiencing this old world.

It seems an unlikely place to find a fire elemental, but what the hey.

And I must say . . . my dude could totally be in a fantasy K-pop band with his purple faux-hawk and perfectly pixie-like features. LOOK AT THIS HOTNESS!

go ahead . . . swipe right.

I also spent some time just "looking around" at things, like this swirling Air Rift (at least I think it's an Air Rift?) in the cold mountain tops. giant swirling chunks of rock with uber looking Griffons prowling around. Wow!  Just super visually stunning . . . especially since I bumped my graphics up from Low to Ultra. I could have never experienced this game in all its splendor on my old rig, that's for sure.

Really this should be video footage to show how amazing this swirling meteor field looked.

I'd say I still need to experiment with all my skills a bit before I can say this character is fully ready to rock in a level appropriate zone, but I had fun wandering around here and rediscovering things like my mechanical horse mount and Lil' Wally.

I think I at least have another couple play sessions in me for Rift. No pressure, just a big world to explore and more lost things to find. Sounds like fun, right?

Happy dueling

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Was there a Rift between us?

The other day I decided to download and check out a "now" older MMO, good ol' Rift.  You remember Rift, right?

Look, a Rift that's undulating like a giant octopus in the sky!

Sure you do! So did I! I was there during "Beta 5" for Rift and it was full of people, and Twitter was annoyingly barking out screenshots for every achievement you made. It was crazy, and it seemed like anyone who was anyone was out there playing Rift.  I even made a special blog I was going to devote to Rift that . . . never really took off. Oh well. Let's just forget I mentioned that.

2011 was a crazy time when MMOs were still all the hotness and the term "WoW-killer" was a thing.  Every new MMO that came out was going to be the next WoW-Killer and promised to be full of fun and interesting people . . . and they were! They just didn't kill WoW. That time really felt like the peak of MMO production to me. What did we get out of that time frame? SWTOR! GW2! AoC! LOTRO! ESO! and so many more cool acronyms!

I'm not sure what happened to my old (level 40? level 50?) character, but it's probably hiding on either a different account or a different shard. Either way, kicking up a new character and running through the old intro zone was almost exactly as I remembered it, but with a few differences.

Gotta love this first Rift boss battle in the Rift Tutorial  

The first big difference of course was that the game didn't have as many new players like me running around in the tutorial area.  That's to be expected. Rift is a nine-year-old game at this point and from the looks of their community landing page, all that's being talked about are the new mounts and things in the shop. I'm just happy to see the game servers are still running and I can log on and play for free.

The second thing I noticed was that it all seemed a bit easier than it was when I was playing back in 2011.  Agro radius was smaller, and things didn't feel like they presented as big of a challenge as they did back at the day.  That's also to be expected.  When something is too punishing too quickly, people just tend to check out of the game and say #sorrynotsorry #ImAudiHere.

The third thing that had changed was ME . . . great, I feel old now. Thanks a lot, Rift! But, seriously, I've changed a lot as a person and as a game-consumer, but that said . . . the actors were all standing in the right spots and I was there playing the hero of the game, Mr. Ascended himself.

I remember chain whip guy and in my memories, he's a lot scarier than this with more adds.

It was good to log in and at least look at the starting area of Rift again. I'm not sure if I'll keep poking around or not, but it's good to see this is still alive and kicking.

Here's to you, Rift!  Here's to you.

Happy Dueling