Everybirdie Knows!

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The Hunter Gatherer

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This morning I am getting a bit of a late start because the weather is dreary out and everything seems to distract me.  I’ve had to contend with the kitten knocking all manner of things onto the ground from the cabinets, and the other two cats intent upon pinning my arms down so that I can’t effectively type.  As a result I am getting a later than usual start on composing my morning blog post.  This mornings post is going to be inspired by the sheer madness that Grace has bestowed upon me.  What I am saying.. is everything is her fault.  For those who have been following me over the last few days, you will know that the August AggroChat Game of the month is the bizarre bird dating sim Hatoful Boyfriend.  I had been avoiding playing it so that I could stream my first moments, and finally the stars aligned for me having enough time to devote my attention to doing just that.  Since this is a largely text based game, I figured I would act out the dialog as best I could.  I set a time for 6pm last night, and I had an awesome audience of friends joining in the fun.  I only actually made it through one play through however because by the end of all of that talking…  my throat was killing me.

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What can I say about Hatoful Boyfriend that has not already been said.  The game is completely insane.  You play the role of a “Hunter-Gatherer” human girl, having to fit into bird society and attending Saint Pidgeonations a prestigious school….  for you know…  Birds.  If that premise itself was not insane enough…  in order to make progress in the game you have to develop a relationship with one of a cast of different birds.  From what I understand if you have failed to gain the attention of at least one suitor by a certain point… the game just ends.  From start to finish it takes about an hour to play, and last nights play through ended up running about a hour and twelve minutes in total.  The game while short…  has a lot of replay-ability as apparently there are secret endings that you can only unlock through repeated plays of the game.  Having done this or that ending unlocks new options, and at this point I have completed the game three times and unlocked a total of three different endings as well as a bonus romance of sorts.

Birb Boyfriend

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While absolutely none of this sounds like a game I would be interested in… there is something quirky and infectious about the game that makes you want to keep playing to see just how deep the rabbit hole goes.  One of the nice features of the game is that there is a fast forward of sorts that lets you skip through some of the often long sequences of dialog that require no player action.  In truth you are only really making a few choices per game session, and watching the events of those decisions play out before you.  In many ways some aspects of it remind me of Persona 4 Golden, which is a game I need to return to playing at some point.  I keep hearing there is an actual “bad” ending, but I have yet to find it.  In many ways playing this game feels like the first time I watched the movie Brazil, with even stranger and more surreal experiences the longer I kept playing.  In fact this morning I actually got up and started playing again, so maybe I am not hooked on the insanity?

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If nothing else it is going to make for a very interesting AggroChat in a few weeks when we record that episode.  I feel like so far maybe Grace has done the best job of picking a game title that generates conversation.  I feel like There Came an Echo probably would have as well if I did not suffer so many technical problems that kept me from finishing the game.  Thalen also has an interesting game picked for us, so I think the next few months are going to be a blast as far as the Game Club goes.  I had a lot of fun recording the play through of this game, and it was so damned bizarre trying to act out the different birds.  I stumbled pretty massively on some of the names and had to rely on some assistance from Ashgar a few times.  However I made it through and now at least have some fodder to talk about for the show.  I am not sure how many more endings I will try and unlock before we record but I still have some time.  The gameplay goes fast enough, and in many ways it is like a train wreck…  you just can’t help but keep watching it.  As someone who went into “Birb Boyfriend” as deeply skeptical, I highly suggest everyone pick this title up and give it a chance.  It is just too damned strange not to experience it for yourself.  If you want to watch my play through if you missed the live stream I embedded the video below.

So Many Sads

Storming the Castle

ffxiv_dx11 2015-06-27 23-24-20-51 This morning I admit that I have been struggling to figure out what to write about.  It is not from a lack of material, but a conscious effort to filter myself.  Last night I leapt over a content wall in Final Fantasy XIV and it was quite possibly the best dungeon experience I have had since first stepping foot into Deadmines back in 2004.  It was so over the top amazing, that it is hard to put into words much about it because quite simply I do not want to ruin the story for anyone.   Square Enix has somehow managed to capture all of the magic of Scarlet Monastery, distill everything that made it fun… and then amply that and unleash it onto the world.  The dungeon design is vastly different than anything else I have seen in Final Fantasy XIV to this point.  On one level it almost feels like a kung fu action movie, where you are deluged with impossible odds yet somehow manage to hold things together enough to keep moving forward.  The fourth dungeon in the game is now the pinnacle of “storming the castle” experiences for me.

What makes it so amazing is the fact that the dungeon is set up by some truly phenominal storytelling.  By the time you reach this point in the story arc, you feel like righteous avengers off to save the day.  I had been stalled on this dungeon for awhile, but had been holding back doing it so that I could do it with a full guild group.  Kodra managed to get caught up last night, and the two of us entered with two others that were gleeful in keeping silent about the tactics of the dungeon.  Somehow we made it through, and our raider instincts kicked in enough to keep us from doing anything too stupid.  It is funny how those instincts are now fairly universal regardless of what encounter a game throws at you.  Final Fantasy XIV does an excellent job of messaging things you should avoid or at least take note of… and when it down… get the hell out.

So Many Sads

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Does this picture not just break your heart?  This is the saddest Bel I have ever seen in this game.  So not only does it excel at giving you moment after moment of excitement… it can also manage to punch you in the gut when the story turns in a sad direction.  Things happened…  things that made us sad, and the game is doing an awesome job of letting us know it.  Not to mention me the person behind the screen was effected by these events too, so it feels reassuring in a way to see my on screen facsimile struggling with the events as well.  I cannot expound upon just how amazing the experience of Heavensward has been so far, with the storyline from last season picking up and continuing where we left off.  I call it a “season” because really that is what it feels like.  The original 1.0 launch was Season 1, A Realm Reborn was Season 2… and now we are entering the Third Season of this really awesome television show… where I absolutely cannot wait to see what happens next.  It is a game like this that makes me feel like a game can both be engaging and deeply narrative at the same time.  I feel like I am telling the story… more than I usually do in a story driven experience.  Sure the story is happening to me…  but I identify so completely with my character.

YoshiOnFFXIV The thing is this feeling we are having is apparently completely intentional.  The above quote is from a ZAM video interview with Yoshi P from E3.  It is very clear that he feels like he is stilling one large episode of the same story, and as a result all of the little elements and people that you meet along the way have a lasting importance.  Just because you go several levels without seeing someone, does not mean they will not show up at some point in the future.  The characters in this world have their own destinies and do not just support that of the main character.  Everyone has an agenda and are given the latitude to shift in and out of the focus of what we ultimately view as the “main story”.  Ashgar and I were talking for a bit last night and he made the comment that there is enough story content in here to make an actual “traditional” Final Fantasy game.  Thinking about this I absolutely agree and in many ways this sort of storytelling that we are experiencing is the same sort of storytelling we saw in Final Fantasy VI for example… where characters shift in and out of your party but you are constantly moving forward towards an end goal.  This time we the player character are the constant in a world that is constantly changing around us.AggroChat

AggroChat 63 – There Came an Echo Show

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Last night we recorded the sixty third episode of AggroChat and the fifth AggroChat Game Club game show.  This time around it was Kodra’s pick a quirky voice controlled story driven RTS called There Came an Echo.  My experience was vastly different than the rest of my co-hosts, but it seems that pretty much everyone other than Kodra and Tam had some measure of technical difficulties with this title.  For example Thalen, Ash and I were all missing significant UI elements during our play throughs.  Several of us had to content with moments when the game seemed to just stop accepting voice input commands as well.  I however had the most issues with the game constantly crashing on me.  There was no point when I was able to actually load anything without the game going unresponsive and having to hit the “wait for program” button in the hopes that maybe just maybe it would wake the hell up and start working again.  As I said I was the only person who had issues quite that severely, and I am hoping that maybe this is just a bad patch as they recently rolled one out.

The positive however is it has good enough story and voice acting to make me futz with this game for two hours trying to make it work for me.  During the course of they show the folks that did manage to beat the game exposed all the spoilery content and I got enough of a feel for how the story goes that I really want to see it play out.  At the very least I am planning on watching a play through, and preferably one without much streamer dialog to preserve as much of the voice acting experience as I can.  The one I was watching for a bit yesterday kept talking over the character dialog… which kinda ruined the experience.  This game feels very much like a tech demo with good story and voice acting… and I would love to see this same level of effort taken and expanded into a more traditional game experience.  Sure this voice control thing is somewhat neat, but I hate talking to devices.  Devices like the Amazon Echo, Siri and even my own Google Phone experience are lost on me… because the last thing I want to do is talk to my device to have it do something for me.  The voice control was deeply awkward for me, but your mileage may vary…  Kodra and Tam both seemed to enjoy it greatly.

Nineteen Years

AggroChat 59 – The Shadowrun Dragonfall Show

Last night we got the folks together to record the fourth AggroChat game club show, this time devoted to Tamrielo’s pick.  Shadowrun: Dragonfall is the second game in the Shadowrun: Returns series from the wildly successful kickstarter process.  While the first game focused mostly on getting the engine correct, this game focuses more on weaving an interesting narrative in the Shadowrun setting.  In tonights show we delve deep into the game and talk about the various choices we made while playing it.  Please be warned this is a full spoiler show, and we will talk about some of the plot twists and the alternate choice paths that you can make in the game.  I highly suggest that if you intend to play this game,  that you revisit this show after doing so as not to spoil any of the content.

 

This title is auspicious for various reasons, primarily because it is the first title that everyone joining in the show either beat or came extremely close to beating it.  Kodra and I started recording tonight and during the course of the show actually defeated it.  Ash however is in the final stretch making him only about thirty minutes away.  The other extremely unique thing about this game is it is quite literally the first game we have played that we all were able to give a big thumbs up to.  Join us next month for Kodra’s title as well called There Came an Echo, which is a voice controlled real time strategy game… that is certain to lead to some strange conversations.  Additionally if you played Shadowrun: Dragonfall along with us, please head over to AggroChat.com and drop the team a line with what you thought about the game.

Nineteen Years

It was roughly nineteen years ago yesterday that my wife and I first got together as a couple.  In truth we use May 30th as a close approximation of our “dating anniversary” because honestly neither of us really know the EXACT date.  For the most part we consider it to be the more important anniversary and try and at least acknowledge it every year.  We are not big into gifts and never really have been.  We tend to label things we were already going to get as “anniversary gifts” after the fact.  Like apparently the wooden rocking chair I got my wife awhile back is her anniversary gift, and according to my wife my new SUV and the used iPad 2 I will be getting Monday is my gift.  It seems like I made out like a bandit until you learn how we spent our anniversary.

Friday was the last day with kids for my wife and thus begins the yearly ritual of packing up her room.  This year however it is a bit more stressful for her because she is having to entirely vacate her cubical.  When they moved into the building they created this “collaboration room” for the teachers, and set it up in quite possibly the least collaborative method known to man…  the office cube farm.  This summer however it seems like they finally got the memo and are going to tear down the cube farm and replace it with a much more open shared workspace.  That said she has to completely move out of both her own personal cube and another cube for a program she manages.  So yesterday I spent my anniversary packing up these cubes in boxes and moving them as she worked on packing away stuff in her classroom.  It is not the most glamorous anniversary in the world but it was me helping her be less stressed so I think in the grand scheme of things it was a win.

End of School Stress

There are times in life when I have to fight my nature.  I tend to be fairly protective of my friends and family, and I especially feel protective of my wife.  She is a strong badass of a woman, who does not need me to fight her battles for her… but there are occasions when that instinct still kicks in.  Part of the reason she is so damned stressed right now revolves around an event that happened Friday night.  She is a rockstar of a teacher, and I mean that in every sense of the word.  She will fight for these kids and bend over backwards to try and make sure they are doing whatever they need to be doing.  This week was one of those cases where she bent over backwards to try and make sure one of her students was doing what they needed to be doing.  The problem being this isn’t always appreciated and sometimes misguided parents can add to her stress level.

It is extremely hard for me to see her in the frustrated state she was in Friday.  Every fiber of my being wants to protect her from the people who were stressing her out.  Thankfully school is over and due to the extremely supportive administration things will work themselves out.  But for the time being she has been wrestling with whether she did the right thing, or enough to help her students.  For this reason and many others I am happy to help her try and at least get one stress out of the way.  I know I would not be half the teacher she is, because quite frankly if I had to deal with half of the things she suffers with a smile…  I would have gone postal a long time ago.  She however has a level of dedication that can only be admired and respected.  So I spent our anniversary packing up boxes, moving file folders, and moving it around the building.  It might not be a glamorous chain of events, but if it lightened her burden then I think it was a successful way to spend our day.

The Patreon Thing

AggroChat 50 – Game Club 2 – Trine 2

trine2_32bit 2015-03-27 23-40-16-99 Last night we recorded our 50th episode of AggroChat and I have to say that is a bit staggering now that I think about it.  We’ve almost recorded a full year of AggroChat, and we only “missed” a single week.  In fact now that I think about it two weeks from now will actually be our one year anniversary show.  It is insane how an entire year of recording gets away from you like that.  Things are going to be a bit strange over the next few weeks as Kodra has accepted a new job and is moving out to Seattle to join Tam and some of our other friends there.  Everyone is joking that they are trying to recruit everyone to Seattle, but honestly  the cost of living difference would be horrible coming from Tulsa.  Besides according to the New York Times we are apparently this up and coming hipster hub.  It is shocking the number of smaller game conventions that are happening in this area.

In any case this week we talked about Trine 2, an exceptionally beautiful game about a Gluttonous Warrior, a Grumpy Wizard and a Larcenous Rogue.  Honestly this is one of the shortest shows we have recorded in a long while because there just wasn’t a whole lot to talk about  in regards to Trine.  We came down on multiple sides of the game with some of us enjoying it, others not feeling much of anything about it, and still others disliking it immensely.  From that aspect I feel like the first round robin title was a success.  From the aspect of giving us a lot of material to talk about, maybe not quite so much.  We also announced our third game club title, which would be one of my picks:  Darkest Dungeon.  Since that is a game about dungeons… and mental illness I have a feeling like it is going to create a lot of stories as a result.

The Paetron Thing

Yesterday I wrote a strange piece, and among many things that folks got out of it, at least one person thought I was talking at least in some part about the current Patreon trend.  I honestly didn’t mean it to come across like that, but it is proof that we can all read the same post but take vastly different messages from it.  Patreon and I have this odd relationship, where I think it is both really awesome… and worrisome at the same time.  The awesome part is it gives people who are creating a lot of really awesome content a way to actually do that as a living, providing them a semi-regular source of income from the creation of “stuff”.  The troublesome aspect is that I seem to see people who are NOT creating much content, throwing up Patreons left and right because it seems to be the latest way to get something for nothing.  Internet celebrity is apparently now a thing worth funding?  In the case of full disclosure I back a couple of different Patreons because the people involved are creating a regular stream of content that I value, so I don’t want it to sound like I am against the concept.

Where I end up wrestling with myself is that there are times I think “man it would be nice to have my costs offset”.  Within a few seconds a little voice inside me pipes up and says that if I did advertising or a patreon or any other way of offsetting my expenses that it would somehow “cheapen” the process.  I’ve always considered my blog a labor of love, and this whole getting up every morning to write something new is something I do… because I enjoy it, not because I am trying to profit from it.  All of that said there are some very real and concrete expenses to keep it all up, and if I did not have a good paying job I would have to stop doing pretty much everything that I do.  I added up some details this morning and for hosting and domain registration alone I am paying the equivalent of a little more than $60 a month once you factor in everything.  Then you tack onto that another $150 a month for really fast internet, and various game subscriptions and you quickly get into some real money.  So while part of me thinks that I should be creating a Patreon as a sort of Tip Jar, there is another part of me that says “don’t”.

Limited Funding

Patreon is an amazing thing for those who are creating the content and actually needing the money to keep the process going.  The problem is…  I don’t need the money in the strictest sense.  My fear is that as people start popping these accounts up for the fun of it, that they will dilute the money away from the people that actually need it.  The blogging and the podcasting and the occasional streaming… are all part of my larger hobby of “gaming” and I just view all of these costs as being part of that bigger habit.  If I were to lose my job or something drastic like that, I would actually have a real need for it.  I feel like setting up a Patreon now would be akin to “crying wolf”, and asking for the goodwill of my readers and listeners before I in the strictest since needed to.  Maybe I am odd in my point of view, in that I view this relationship between reader and writer as some sort of a social contract.  I provide for you, and you give me a reason to keep making content.  But like all relationships I feel like there is always the problem that one side might end up taking advantage of the other.

Setting up a Patreon page, because it is seems to be the popular thing to do…  feels like  taking advantage of that relationship.  Because honestly I know there will be people out there who do donate because they want me to feel loved and appreciated.  I have an exceptionally warm group of readers and listeners.  I appreciate every single one of you out there, and that is a big part of the reason why I have turned down every single person wanting to place advertisements on my blog.  I don’t want to cheapen that relationship, and I don’t want to tarnish our friendship.  That is not to say that at some point the expenses of my sites will grow to a point where I simply cannot weather the entire burden myself.  But that time is not now.  Until it reaches that point then I will continue avoiding trying to “monetize” what I do for my own personal enjoyment.    I will continue also suggesting people show support for the Patreons that DO need the funding, and are providing a wealth of content as a result.