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School’s In

August 27, 2014

Dear Reader,

Things are progressing pretty much as expected at school.  It’s been cake, and I’m really enjoying it, but man oh man am I tired.

I don’t think I’ll feel this way all year; heck, I doubt I’ll even feel this way by the end of September, but my body is taking some time to readjust to the early morning rising and being on my feet most of the day.  I get home super tired with very sore feet and just want to sit around.  Yesterday, in fact, all I did was watch T.V. from when I got home until when I got to bed; that may sound like a normal night for some folks, but that’s pretty abnormal for me.

As a result, my game time has gone way, way down.  I stole a few hours of Hand of Fate in the past few days, but that’s about it.

So there’s really not much to report.  Hand of Fate ramps way up in difficulty.  It may be that I’m just not very good yet, or it may be I that it needs some rebalancing – it is an “early access” game, after all.  Regardless, even though I’m failing a lot more than I did at first, it’s still maintained my interest, so that’s a big plus.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and fatigued)

Humbling

August 25, 2014

Dear Reader,

So yeah, I’ve heard of the Humble Bundles.  I’ve seen them mentioned here and there, but I’d never actually investigated them.  Extra Credits, though, brought some games to my attention in their most recent episode with the caveat that all the games in this “Games you Might Not have Tried” installment was available as a bundle.

Well.

Suffice it to say that I bought the bundle, and will likely continue to frequent the shop with dangerous frequency.  It even convinced me to buy an “early access” game, a development tool that I generally find abhorrent.  The game, though, was stable enough for them, so I figured I’d give it a try.  Hand of Fate, the game in question, has been extremely entertaining so far.  It’s a cross between a deck-building game, a rogue-like, and an arena brawler.  So far, fantastic.

In other news, my first day with the students was quite refreshing.  I feel really good about being back in a real classroom – no offense, college professors, but it’s just not the same.  I can already tell a lot of my students are genuinely nice kids, but of course I have at least one real nut.  This kid – on the first day mind you – was like committing minor acts of physical assault on some of his classmates.  One the first day in a new school in front of a new teacher.  He’ll be fun to work with – and I mean that genuinely.  I hope I can help better him.

Many of the others are just nice kids, though.  I had one girl who couldn’t have been more than 4 foot nothing and maybe – I don’t know, I’m bad with weight, but she was small enough I could have eaten her – who was stuck carrying around a gym bag full of her books that was a little tiring for me to carry (one-handed, at any rate) because someone had erroneously put their lock on her locker.  The poor girl didn’t complain at all, so after the third or fourth time I saw her lugging it, I just took it from her and carried it to some of her various classes.  She was very grateful.

So that’s what’s up in my neck of the woods.  I hope you’re all doing well, too.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and working)

Satisfied Silence

August 22, 2014

Dear Reader, 

As you may have noticed, I haven’t been on in a few days.  There’s good news surrounding that, though: I got a job.  Hooray.

Seriously, though, I am excited; I’m back in the public schools like I wanted, teaching 6th grade English.  Sixth grade is a little young for me, admittedly, but I’ll adapt.  

The catch there is that I’ve never had a full-time, 40 hour plus a week job and written on this blog.  I’ve always been part time or had a cushy job like being a college professor.  I’m not sure what the implications are, really; I can’t promise to get things written on particular days anymore because I can’t really know what those days will look like.  I’m going to try to keep up the 3/day per week posting on M/W/F, but I just don’t know if I can.  Bear with me during this transition.

In brief gaming news, I beat Guacamelee!, which was very, very satisfying.  I didn’t like the very last boss fight, but everything else in the game was stellar.  I strongly recommend you give it a try, and, as a cherry on top, it kept my attention all the way through so that I actually finished it.  

Additionally, I beat deity level in a solo Civ game.  I had beaten it a couple times with a partner, but solo games are tougher since you’re really on your own.  It was a buzzer-beater, too.  One Civ had all but one other beaten in a culture victory, and another had all but one of the spaceship parts completed.  I won a diplomatic victory, which honestly are pretty easy victories, but on deity, I’ll take what I can get.  

So bear with me while I figure out what I still have time for, and we’ll see.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and exhausted; I worked as much in the last 4 days as I would in 2 weeks at the college)

Hope and Disappointment

August 18, 2014

Dear Reader,

A lot of my recent perceptions are being colored by my job search.  Those of us who’ve had to go through it recently know what a ego-crushing, self-confidence defeating procedure it often is.  This one has been no different, even though it’s been much shorter than my Illinois job search (so far).  For example, after being verbally told I was a “shoo-in” for a particular position and that I’d be called at 2 o’clock the following day, I never heard from the people.  That was of course a Friday, so I got to wait all weekend wondering what the heck happened.  Now, I’m not sure if I should call and appear impatient or wait and appear uninterested.  It’s a no-win situation.  Most of job hunting is, until the ultimate win, at any rate.

For that reason in particular, I’ve had a hard time getting my hopes up about things recently, whether they are tied to the job hunt or not.  It’s the age-old reason that not getting my hopes up means I’m less disappointed when things don’t go my way.  Sure, it sound particularly teen-angsty, and I’m sure it is, really, but still, there’s no point denying my emotions.  

I’ve not had any patience with situations that require hope to continue, meaning that in games, I’ve been quitting earlier than perhaps was necessary, believing that those games were sure defeats.  This has affected my Magic:The Gathering Online play, for instance, because I concede games as soon as it appears I’m going to lose.  Some of my buddies have been complaining about it, too, so it’s affecting their desire to play with me (not to any measurable amount, mind you, just on a general level).  

I’m not sure whether getting a job will solve these problems or not, but I suspect it would.  I said a long time ago, near the start of this blog, in fact, that I found it likely that my loss of being a public school teacher was directly tied to my inability to heroic raid any more.  The small, personal mistakes felt like larger failures, I had less patience than previously in dealing with others’ mistakes, and my drive to give it the old college try was diminished, all of which led to me deciding it just wasn’t worth the trouble.  My personal life being out of sorts affected my game life.

I suppose that’s no great revelation (especially since I noted it years ago), but it does bring up an interesting question: If I am successful getting back into the public schools, will I be interested in heroic raiding again?  I’ve discounted my capabilities for several reasons (age, reflexes, time, etc), but I wonder.  I suppose I’ll have to get a job first to figure it out.  Here’s to - trying – to hope for that.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and feeling blue)

Guacamelee! and other Gaming

August 15, 2014

Dear Reader,

I’m still playing all the games I listed before: Spelunky, Civ 5, WoW, MtGO, and ESO, but for good measure, I figured I’d throw another game into the mix.  I felt like I needed something to play alone (so ESO and MtGO are out) that was more manageable in small play sessions (so Civ 5′s out) that was new(ish) (so WoW’s out), that wasn’t constantly boning me with randomization (so Spelunky’s out).  All that really boils down to that I needed again that wasn’t likely to annoy the piss out of me since I’ve been on such a short fuse recently with the move and the no job and all.

I picked up Guacamelee! during the last Steam sale.  I’d seen it at PAX and was a little underwhelmed, but it’s hard to pick up a controller at a game convention with the play the game completely out of context and really understand what’s happening.  When I mentioned that I was playing it to my blind buddy, he was surprised, since what we’d seen wasn’t too impressive.  However, I’ve been very pleasantly surprised the with game as a whole.  It’s very visually unique, for one, as well as focusing on a unique character type: luchadors.  The story is rather predictable and stereotypically derived (save the princess, etc), but the game also makes fun of that very tendency; one of the bosses is, in fact, beaten by grabbing a golden axe, after which the floor beneath it despawns, causing the boss to fall in lava.  

The gameplay itself has been enjoyable; it’s very well designed to slowly ramp up the learning and difficulty as you gather new moves to use against increasingly difficult and protected monsters.  The game operates on a color scheme, too, which is very useful for players to help learn what move to use; instead of a subtle outfit change or a telegraphed attack, enemies can become coated in colored shields that indicate what the proper counter is.  I suspect it’s very visually-impaired friendly, but since my buddy has already written off this game as “bad” from the three minutes I played at PAX, I doubt we’ll ever know.

I think I’m about 33% of the way through the game, based on the map I can see, and I’ve been enjoying it thoroughly so far.  If you see it for a fair price and like side-scrolling action games with some character customization through “leveling” (with money, in this game), then I’d suggest you scoop it up.

Other than that, not much “life” movement is happening.  I keep up with my daily craftings in WoW, but not much else.  I missed the flex this week because I thought I might have an important “school hours” call the next morning, but it never came.  My Civ games are too easy on the next to hardest mode and seemingly impossible solo on the hardest mode.  MtGO continues to be a place where my buddies can take advantage of me and beat me into a senseless pulp unless I play one of my power decks, in which case they verbally berate me for being so cheap (to be fair, we all do the exact same thing to one another when we’re losing, so it’s mostly tit for tat).  I keep making it to the final boss in Spelunky and failing to kill him; I understand how, but there’s so many little nuances about standing near him that can kill you that I keep getting killed in ways I didn’t know I could.  ESO continues to be enjoyable, when we can play, but that time comes and goes based on people’s availability and interests.  We did the other two “starter zone” dungeons, both of which I really enjoyed and were largely a fair challenge to three players.  Those are by far the activities I like the most in ESO, so I look forward to more of them.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and playing the waiting game)

ESO and the Job Hunt

August 13, 2014

Dear Reader,

As I mentioned before, I’ve been playing a little bit of Elder Scrolls Online.  I’ve also recently moved, and, as a result, am job hunting yet again.  In ruminating about what to write today, an interesting overlap struck me about both these tasks: they can appear to be group tasks, but really, they’re solo.

My wife really wants to help me in my job search, you see.  I know she’s pained by the constant unfairness of the process.  As I’ve harped on before, my credentials are pretty good – even better, now, since I’ve got the community college experience, a conference presentation on motivation, and a co-directorship of a regional college readiness alliance.  Yet I don’t get called for interviews.  That’s the most mind-boggling part to me; if I got an interview but not a job offer, at least I could deconstruct it and try to figure out what went wrong.  When I don’t even get a call, it’s a lot harder.  Do I look too expensive?  Is it because I’m not a local?  Does my cover letter come off wrong?  I’ll never know.

So my wife watches this and wishes she could help, but really, there’s nothing she can do.  I know how to find the jobs, how to write the letters (or so I think), how to construct a résumé for a particular position.  Heck, these are some of the skills I’ve been teaching at my community college position.  All she can really do is provide emotional support from the sidelines, which helps, but isn’t really a direct influence.

Elder Scrolls feels a lot like that.  I’ve read plenty of reviews on the good and bad in the game, reviews that span from its excellence to calling it a “trash game.”  From my point of view, I feel like the combat is a little meaningless and slow.  I like the very open character development, but realistically, it’s only a matter of time before, like in every game, the “best” builds are “solved.”  

The crafting system is also quite open, which is good, but it’s also very tedious.  Each point becomes a grind to pick up enough raw materials to make an item, then break it.  I realize this describes a large majority of MMO crafting systems, but I’d just like something a little better, really.  Making 10,000 vats of bug soda don’t really make you a better cook, just better at making bug soda (yes, this is a thing in the game, though it goes by a more formal name.  It contains bugs and mash, though, so it’s bug soda).  

Exploration, which was one of the Elder Scrolls games’ selling points, is pretty meaningless, too.  There are mechanical rewards – skyshards – but they’re almost entirely in places you’ll go for quests, anyway.  I haven’t really found anything that’s out of the way and discovered only be exploring, but perhaps I’m just not far enough into the game yet.  Questing, too, is pretty tedious.  It combines the narrow focus of being able to only track one quest at a time, like Secret World, with the laundry-list questing of WoW, which is a terrible combination.  The game also lacks a minimap, but has a “normal” map screen, which makes little to no sense; it only forces players to stop more often and open the map screen, which does nothing but waste time.  

Most importantly, and most relevantly to this post, is that the questing feels like a solo game, like Skyrim, even.  There are many quest objectives that are not shared, including tasks (like cleansing altars), collections (like picking up gargoyle gall bladders), and NPC interrogations (like having to talk to a town guard about his meth addiction).  This creates an environment where everyone is questing in a parallel fashion but not really together, and since the monsters that inhabit the world have to be tuned to solo players, there’s no challenge in soloing them.  We often get split up during a quest and have to just wait for the slowest person to catch up, rather than being allowed to cooperate and stay together.

The one exception so far has been the 4-man dungeon, but of course that would require some collaboration.  Here, though, the tuning was so low that we were able to pretty easily three-man it, only wiping a few times to each boss as we figured out the mechanics and how to avoid them.  The last boss was the exception to that, but we found a way to deal with him, too, by dragging him away from where some healing mechanics were taking place.  I’m glad the game allowed for that creative solution, but that doesn’t offset the fact that a lot of the time I feel like I’m playing by myself.

So in that way, job hunting and ESO are pretty similar: they both seem like they should be group activities, but they’re not really.  That’s not a reason not to play ESO, by the way; it’s enjoyable enough, but be aware of the limitations of the system.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and hunting)

Post-move Gaming

August 11, 2014

Dear Reader,

To be honest, the title is a little deceptive; most of my pre-move gaming is the same as my post-move gaming.  I’ve been playing some Civ; I actually beat it on the hardest level, Deity (“Only the best players in the world will beat it at this level”) with Jacob/Burynerds.  Twice, actually, since my blind buddy wanted to be an ass and say the one win was a fluke.

I’ve been in and out of WoW; I’m getting the late-expansion boredoms.  I’ve been leveling my rogue ostensibly to do PvP at 90, but I just haven’t gotten over that 90 hump yet.  I really don’t want to quest, so I’ve been slogging along slowly, doing a few pet battles here and there, just killing time.

I played a little LoL the other night with an Illinois friend, too.  It was nice to be back in a familiar setting with a friend, but a lot of my skills had rusted up, so I played rather poorly.  Not badly, mind you; I was still about 4:1 kill to death ratio, but still.  I can do better.

Jacob/Burynerds jumped into Magic: The Gathering Online, too.  I predicted that within a month he’d be making decks too good to play against my buddy and me.  It took more like a week, actually.  Part of that is the persistent power creep of the new cards; there’s a lot of cards in standard right now that just seem like cheap bullshit.  I’m sure there’s other cards to counter that cheapness, but since my buddy and I don’t have those cards, we’re essentially screwed.

We’ve been playing three-way free for all games, too, which were much deeper than the typical one-on-one.  I won two of the three, but only because in one of them Jacob/Burynerds was forced to save me because he knew he couldn’t kill my blind buddy on his own.  In the end, though, I eliminated both of them.  That’s the kind of deeper strategy I’m talking about; are we sure he’d have lost if he didn’t save me?  Was it the right play, or was there even a right play for him at all?

The largest change has been Elder Scrolls Online.  I mentioned before that the three of us had started playing it; it’s been okay, so far, but I’d mark it below The Secret World for quasi-modern MMOs.  I said at the start I didn’t think we’d even get to max level with it, and frankly, I stand by that now, 15 levels in.  It’s not that it’s unenjoyable – it’s quite fun at times, particularly 3 manning the 4 man dungeons – but it’s really a solo game that you happen to have a few friends around you playing at the same time.  I’ll write more specifically on it later, but let it suffice to say that I like the game, but it’s not enough MMO-y enough.

So that’s what I’ve been up to during the move.  See you Wednesday!

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and moved)

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