Monthly Archives: February 2015

The Compleat Forced

I was going to write about Evolve today (according to my self assigned schedule) but I haven’t played it at all this week, to be honest. It’s a game that I enjoy when playing with friends, and everyone’s been sucked into other games for the time being (including LoL, sigh). So instead I’ve been playing my current mainstays: DA:I & Minecraft.

Last night was Frozen Thursday, though, and the first one in a while, so I got to play a little  bit of Forced with Choo. Both of us are completionists in this type of game so we spent quite a bit of time completing the time challenges on a couple of the early levels.

Forced is a great little puzzler/top down fighter. It’s not particularly complicated but it does require precision and teamwork. Choo and I aren’t new to teamwork games — we were rockstars at Portal and we collaborated on Braid. It’s a good complement of strengths and weaknesses and in general we can make each other understand what we want to have happen with very few words.

I find that I get very very sloppy the later the night goes — when I’m tired my brain stutters and stops and, what with the iCape plague rolling around the store I’ve been very tired indeed. Plus, and I’m just going to go off on a tangent here, I’ve been doing that whole standing all day thing and it really, really exhausts me. There’s no anti-fatigue mat and the computer is a little too low for me and also standing all day is very tiring. Weirdly, on day one I feel fine and can stand without a problem, but by the time Saturday rolls around my body aches. It’s a cumulative effect. But it’s good for me, right? Right.

Anyway, by the time we were trying to kill the last boss in 3 minutes there was no hope of me following directions or plans whatsoever. But for the first few, I was more or less on point. Mostly less, but I had a few very good plays. I do panic a lot. There’s a lot of button mashing, which is deadly in this game. This little clip is after about 30 minutes of experimenting to find the right order and to make sure everyone was in the right place at the right time.


Just a total blast.


There needs to be more co-op games, though. Co-op puzzlers are amazing, if you’re working with the right person, but really almost any co-op game is pretty great. MMOs tried, successfully, to capitalize on that with huge groups, but it’s not quite the same as that two or three or four person team. We bought the humble bundle of the week which was almost all online co-op and I’m psyched to keep playing them.




I still haven’t finished Limbo. I’m not sure I ever will. But I stopped letting it keep me from other mobile games, so I finally played Monument.

After two levels:

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 11.52.39 AM

It’s very different than Braid — but it made my brain work in similar ways, twisted and turned and thinking upside down. Less story driven as well — there is a story, but it’s not the focus. Stunningly beautiful, though, eh?


I finished it up Monday night, closing out the last of the Forgotten Shores pack. There’s a moment where an animate object, a totem, appears to die. I was shocked at the amount of loyalty I felt towards it, the actual sadness I felt about this thing dying. Good games do that, right, but this is a MOBILE game which (with a few exceptions) isn’t a medium known for emotional storytelling.


This one got me though.

The puzzles weren’t hugely difficult — the only long trouble I had was with the very last puzzle in the game, which left me struggling for long enough to consider looking up the solution. But to do so would have felt cheap after all these levels. It was too perfect an experience to sully with cheating.


It’s an impossible game to describe. But it reminded me just how good iOS games can be.

Oh. It’s you.

My Emer’s no fool. She’s closed the breach but she knows — despite of or perhaps because of the dancing inquisition in Haven — things are far from over. She’s 100000000% right.

This young fellow, who we would have met in depth had we done the Templar quest, shows up with some really surprising news.


Someone’s coming to hurt EMER? Are you SURE? But everyone loves her! -_-

Anyway, turns out the Elder One is SUPER PISSED that we closed the breach, that Emer has the mark he was supposed to, that we keep messing with his shit. The inquisition makes a valiant effort against his demons and red templars but sheer numbers and the very small size of Haven don’t add up to a defensible position.

rocksfallingThere’s a plan for a moment — Emer sets off some trebuchets and buries some troops, but there’s a moment where it’s clear the battle is lost and we toddle off for a last stand in the chantry, saving some but not all of the Havenites on the way. I was REALLY SAD about the ones that I didn’t get to in time — I did save the alchemists and a couple of other people, but I missed the barmaid :/ Boo. Emer’s super sad about it.


Also the fact that we’re all going to die. That’s not really happy either.


Just when all seems lost, here comes the game’s early bad guy with his shot at redemption — he’s dying because he fought off a templar, but he knows of a secret path known only to the chantry that will help the people escape. Of course, the forces of the Elder One might be a bit suspicious if the chantry is suddenly empty.

oh meGREAT THANKS COLE. He’s such a ray of sunshine. The answer is pretty clear — Emer’s served this long to save the world, what’s certain death to save everyone versus certain death and everyone else dies too? She’s nothing if not noble.

Outside, we get our first good look at The Elder One who looks like every villain in a fantasy movie, walking out of the fire, hands crackling with power.

ohitsyouAnd like every villain everywhere he spends some very important exposition time telling Emer how much he despises her, how he wants to be a GOD, how she’s going to die. Once upon a time he was a Tevintar magistar (Dorian, also Tevintar, is particularly pissed off about this when he finds out) who entered the fade and became a darkspawn in the blight. He’s imprisoned but escapes because we need a story line  because he’s very powerful. He’s basically done all of this to sow discord and also to restore Tevintar power and also to become a god. He’s pretty clever — he’s infiltrated the templars with red lyrium, he’s stolen the orb of destruction from the elves (Emer doesn’t know this yet, but Solas sure does). And of course, he’s responsible for the mass killing at the consortium that started all of this trouble for us.

wellshitAlso he has an enormous dragon. This is called Dragon Age, remember?

amiturningevilEmer’s clearly got a plan, though, because she’s a heroine in a fantasy tale and no mere dragon and evil man with unimaginable powers can beat her.

elderThe Elder One is super pissed when he figures out what the plan is — she’s going to bury the now empty Haven, and hopefully him with it. Only he’s got a dragon so while she’s able to bury the town and escape, so does he. Sigh.

escapeEmer’s work is never done.

Circles and arrows on the back of each one

When the Sims (the very first Sims) was ported to Mac by Aspyr back in the day, I was as happy as any kid has ever been for a game. I had been so jealous of my friends with their pcs. I remember playing it in Elaine’s basement which was always a little chilly and watching the warm water fill the bathtub in game and feeling like I was living in that tiny pixelated world.

I played the hell out of the Sims 2, which we got in DC — for Elaine’s computer, because mine couldn’t play it (mac. again). and then Aspyr ported it and I bought every damn expansion until it became nearly unplayable.

And then the Sims 3 which ate my soul. And the Sims 4, which didn’t.


But despite that intro, this isn’t a post about the Sims. It’s a post about Minecraft.

(“Remember Alice? This is a song about Alice”)

The Sims isn’t really technically a sandbox game, it’s a simulation. I get it. But the thing that addicted me so much in the Sims is the same thing that addicts me in Minecraft. The blank slate (I never used money cheats, I’d get so bored). The working for each little piece. The feeling of a million things to do.

research table

Minecraft is the very essence of a sandbox game. And this weekend, I lost myself in the minutia of an enormous, modded world. I studied magic from my research table, examining my Thaumaicon on my little desk underneath fancy silver lights that I built. I built an enormous witches cottage, bookshelves. I built a turtle (like the programming turtle) and gave it a diamond pick axe that I made by strip mining for an hour and set it to mine enormous holes in the ground. I fought furious zombies and fallen knights and cut down magic trees and harvested cotton. We went to the nether and avoided a ghast and walked over flesh and cinder grass, sometimes still on fire.


There’s a tiny machine at the bottom of this hole.


I’m playing the Direwolf 20 version of Feed the Beast, and there’s a million things to do. We’ve just barely scratched the surface — a smeltery, but no industrial machines. No automation yet. And there are so many other things that I want to do. My cottage is nowhere near complete — I want chairs and carpets, more lights. I’m building a factory for our smeltery, organizing our chests. I’m stumped on the factory roof — fake chimneys? With some sort of smoke? Is there a smoke machine in this pack or do I have to use grey wool? There’s so much to build.


It’s not about the graphics (although they’ve grown on me in all their pixelated glory). It’s about the step by step from the start feeling of it. I talked about it before, I know — the engineering feeling. But it’s the most soothing game I’ve played, even as a mana creeper explodes me and teleports me into a hole to bedrock.


And modded minecraft makes it better, because there are so many conveniences (backpacks, upgraded chests, furniture, minimap, graves) that take away some of the game closing rage moments.

Rocks fall. Everyone Dies.

When last we left Emer she had gathered up her erstwhile companions from the dungeons in the future. Because that’s a thing that happens in Dragon Age: Inquisition! Dorian is still positive that this can be all undone, which appears to be a great comfort to all the afflicted companions, most of whom are looking worse for the wear. They’re all Lyrium poisoned…although Fiona has it worse.

ouchThe Lyrium is growing through her, basically eating her from the inside out. The mage storyline is very very dark. She tells us that Leilana is here and we must find her. Everyone’s a bit bossy.  We have a skin crawling exploration of the place. It’s pretty clear that when things went bad they went bad QUICK.


bad sceneAnd then we find Leilana.

mygirlShe’s clearly been through a really awful hell. But, you can’t keep this one down.

unbrokenShe’s the unbroken one, clearly. Her torturer is broken in many many places, including his neck. SUPER THIGHS. Bless her.

It’s a disturbing moment because a) we find out that it’s only been ONE YEAR since Emer was cast into the future. ONE YEAR. And in one year the Empress has been assassinated and the Inquisition has fallen and everything is an utter shambles. Leliana is SUPER ANGRY. I’m very scared of her. She calls Emer out for being cavelier about it all — “This is just a dream to you, but it’s been our LIFE for a year. I WANT REVENGE.”

We’re just going to give her what she wants. The gate Alexius is hiding behind can’t be opened without shards of lyrium, so we have to go kill a bunch of people. You’re welcome, Leiliana.


This is a seriously bad and hopeless future. Emer kind of regrets making this choice because look at how much is on her shoulders now. She has to make the choices that make sure this NEVER HAPPENS. It’s a lot to ask for some poor elf cast into this position with a mark she didn’t ask for.

Once inside the gate, it’s time to confront Alexius. To no one’s very great surprise, he is corrupted due to association with the Elder One. He’d sided with him in a desperate bid to save his son’s life. Dorian is actually surprisingly compassionate about this, considering everything we’ve seen:


But then Dorian was his apprentice before the madness took hold, so he probably has a bit of extra love for the guy. Anywho, it’s not just about Felix — he also wants Tevinter to rule, so he’s a bit of a power hungry ass. He promised the Elder One he could go back in time before the breach and change the past — meaning, I suppose, Emer would have never been marked. Unfortunately, this is beyond his power and the Elder One is VERY ANGRY.

Well. He’s no match for us (Alexius, that is. The Elder One would be trouble). Emer ably dispatches him and we return to the past — just in time to convince Alexius of the past that he’s making the wrong choice altogether. Felix helps:


Unfortunately, just when it looks like things are making some sort of sense, ALISTAR appears and boy is he PISSED. Can’t trust a mage, he says. Can’t trust them at all.


He kicks the mages out altogether, which means Emer has a choice to make. She can welcome them as equals, or she can enslave them. She knows she’s going to piss off a whole lot of people, but despite the bad apples we’ve met a lot of unhappy mages who haven’t really done anything wrong. Enslaved people aren’t going to be any more trustworthy, and if she’s going to close the breach she needs them.

I play her as a softy, and I think it’s interesting that there’s going to be troubles ahead as a result — the better move would have been to enslave them and sort it all out afterwards. But, she’s a victim of plenty of bias and hatred because she’s an elf. It’s hard for her to justify extending that to some other group.

Still, nearly everyone disapproves of this move. WHATEVER jerks it’s not up to you is it!

Now the big moment — can we close the rift with the help of the mages power? OF COURSE WE CAN. I took zero screenshots but you’ll have to take my word for it.

Job’s finished! Time to bask in the glory of a new day!


Oh WHO ARE WE KIDDING. This isn’t even close to being over.



I did it, mom!

I got that making youtube videos was hard work. I didn’t realize just how hard it was when you’re not on a Mac.
I used Screenflow on my laptop. It was pretty great — smart enough to separate game audio from vent from my mic and to record each of these as a separate channel so I could edit them all individually — helpful because I had an extra hissy mic at the time. It took me weeks to find the same thing for windows (I’m trying out PlayClaw now) and it works well except …

They’re out of sync. And it’s not just a matter of tweaking the in/out points of the audio because they slowly continue to get out of sync as the video goes on. Which makes me want to tear out my hair.

It also makes me have HUGE respect for the prolific youtubers out there, as I realize just how much work they put into those little 15 minute videos.

Luckily, I have talented coworkers — an audio engineer, a 3d graphics designer, a photographer. I have a wealth of knowledge here just for the asking. Sound engineer is coming in particularly handy as he explains the importance of choosing the correct codecs because of EXACTLY this issue. Which means I’ll have to do some experimenting as time goes on.

So basically what I’m saying is that this is a video where the audio doesn’t match up quite right, and it’s my first night of playing, and … uh. You know, the usual disclaimers. Having fun.



Ice upon the water.

My dog has cabin fever. For a long time he was getting two walks a day and then winter came and it dropped down to one walk a day and then the snow came and it dropped down to zero walks a day because how can you take a walk when snow is waist high? I couldn’t even park where we normally walk.


Yesterday was relatively mild and although it was spitting snow it was nothing to be concerned about. My boss let me go home early so I threw on snowboots, said a quick prayer to the winter gods and went to the Indian Lands. That place hops year round so I was hoping that enough fellow cabin fevered folks had trodden a path and so they did! It was deceptive. The path was hard and frozen and then all of a sudden you’d sink to your knees and remember how deep the snow was, exactly.

IMG_1559I mean, that looks like just an inch of snow, but in fact there’s a bench there buried. BURIED.

IMG_1571Poor Baxter kept forgetting that the snow was deep and he’d go off track and suddenly tip over. He’s not graceful at the best of times.


It’s been cold. The river (tidal) froze mid wave. I feel uncomfortable thinking about that — a sudden realization at just how big the world is brought home by the freezing of a wave, mid curl.


I finished Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man last weekend and it made me feel uncomfortable too. The language was lovely because it’s Joyce.

But the Christmas vacation was very far away: but one time it would come because the earth moved round always.

-child logic.

He gave them ear only for a time but he was happy only when he was far from them, beyond their call, alone or in the company of phantasmal comrades.


But I felt unsettled. I’m still happy. But unsettled. The new moon is under my skin or the dripping icicles are messing with my rhythm or the piled snow stripped away my comfort in stark white. I don’t know.

Evolving into bad jokes

Because seriously the title of that game just invites bad joke after bad joke doesn’t it? Or is it just that I have friends who make really bad jokes.

Probably that.

So Evolve is a strange little game. When I THINK about playing it, I feel reluctant to log on and reluctant to play. I can see it as a game with high burnout — but then…

Then you play with 4 people you know and it’s amazing. It changes the nature of the game entirely to something fun, frantic and very mean. There’s something extra fun about destroying a friend in combat. (I say this as the person who hasn’t had to be the monster yet, ofc). Any game that requires good coordination among a team is going to benefit from that team knowing each other. We’ve played together for a while, and there’s a comfort level and also a certain degree of trust that happens.

I still have footage to  selectively edit into me being amazing  to upload, but I keep forgetting to bring home a drive from work and the files are too big for Dropbox/iCloud drive. Tonight! Tonight I will bring them home.

The rest of the week looks fun too — I have Minecraft tonight (FINALLY SOMEONE WILL PLAY MINECRAFT PC WITH ME) and then Frozen Thursday and then more Dragon Age. I’m playing and loving more games lately than I have in years. And loving them. Oh, video games.

Let’s go to the future!


When last we left Emer it was time for her to make a choice between Templars and Mages. She deliberated and promptly f’d off to go do more entertaining things, like getting Iron Bull to join the party so she could flirt shamelessly with him.

tranquilWhen we were in Redcliffe village, Emer was sneaking around and learned that all of these freaky little skull pillars are made from the skulls of the Tranquil. The tranquil, by the way, are mages who failed their test in the fade — and are then cut off from it. The process removes their emotions,  making them creepy and inexpressibly sad. The idea of their skulls now being used in these…whatever they are? It doesn’t sit well.

Anyway, our little side trip to the Storm Coast was short lived because I really just wanted to get Iron Bull in my party. I mean, look at him.

lessthan3There are other reasons. Let me count the ways.

bull me too bull ScreenshotWin32_0124_FinalThis latter proves the difficulty of hitting on him, btw. He won’t even give me flirt options anymore -_- Damnit Bull! Also, I think that Emer actually approves of this choice — if he loses the slightest bit of health she’s all “SOMEONE HELP BULL!” in a panic. Bless her.

Also, I can’t decide if Cassandra is afraid of the dark, of spiders, or both because as soon as we went into this cave I got a message:


I’d mock, but really. Disapproving of this cave probably shows remarkable common sense.

We also took a quick trip to the marsh to rescue some soldiers and kill some zombies and find a maddened apostate and kill ‘im. The place was horrific and depressing — notebooks and letters tell the story of people dying slowly, trying to save their neighbors, watching the undead rise. Ugh.

interior decoratingThis is the lovely, well decorated and cosy home of the madmen who have overtaken the marsh. Everyone has such good taste!

By the way, I didn’t get a screenshot of this, but the father of the chieftain who is leading this little band of madmen comes to avenge his (“idiot”) son by literally throwing a goat at Skyhold. A goat! A GOAT. Emer’s face, man.

bogunicornEmer took one look at her new mount from the fallow marshes and decided Binky was going to be the only thing she rides, thank you very much.

Ok. Can’t put it off anymore. Emer has to decide between the mages and templars. I did some research to try and help decide. I found both the mages and the templars awful, by the way — you have the jerkass templars who abandon Val Royeaux and the jerkass mages are clearly setting up a trap for us and there’s no happy choice here. I chose mages on strength of having the more interesting quest according to forums, but I didn’t feel good about either choice.

cullenCullen thinks he can tell Emer what to do and she reacts like a rebellious teen. SCREW YOU YOU AREN’T MY REAL DAD I’M GOING TO GO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE MAGES.

This is the point in the game where I start pissing pretty much everybody off on the regular. /shrug.

The council works out a fancy pants plan to get us in their safely and disable Alexius’ forces and in we go. Unsurprisingly, our “negotiations” turn nasty real quick.

self confidence

Poor Emer. No one likes her. She gets the last laugh (well, for a second she gets the last laugh) when Alexius tries to take them into custody and turns to see his guards all killed. Hah!


Unfortunately we aren’t laughing for long. Dorian shows up to confront Alexius and after a moment of tense discussion we are thrown into the future. WELL SHIT.


Dorian’s pretty pragmatic about it — “eh, let’s figure out when we are, it’ll be ok.” I like being lost in time with him. It keeps me calm.


Bad news. The place is drowning in Lyrium. That’s not a good sign.

what number did he start at

The first order of business is to explore and we start finding our companions. Iron Bull is passing the time in a healthy manner, of course. I have to wonder what number he started on…

Next, we’ll finish up in the future and learn to be very, very scared of someone who is part of the Inquisition war table.







Emer’s curiosity about the Friends of Red Jenny must be assuaged, so before she heads back to the Hinterlands to FINALLY gain entrance to Redcliffe (screw you you snotty mages) we take a quick side trip to this strange, moonlit courtyard in Orlais.


This is the first time we’ve seen the moon and while I’m actually grateful that there’s not day/night cycles (some areas are hard enough to navigate under the sun) I quite like the impression it gives me that Em’s a damn miracle worker — look at what she has accomplished in ONE DAY! fight

No one was particularly surprised that there was a fight brewing with this gentleman who was certainly sure he was famous and that he could beat us…Poor fellow. EffortRight. But before we can convince him of the error of his ways, out pops Sera:

seraThe nobleman obviously immediately says What like every fool who fell for that joke ever and Sera assassinates him — but not before the alarm goes out that there’s trouble. Before our intrepid party can even summon up a weary sigh, Sera assures us that there’s not a thing to worry about — as she’d snuck into their storehouses and stolen their breeches.

“Uh,” said someone (probably Cassandra, the most pragmatic of my group) “but why didn’t you steal their weapons?”

nobreechesRight, ok. We dispatch the guards, listen to her madness:


Add Sera to our party and invite the Friends of Red Jenny to be our spies and it’s time to go to Redcliffe!


Well. Almost. First there’s a side trip to the mines of Vallmar (whose key we found in the random house up in the woods that used to serve as the arl of someone’s lover’s house. Parse THAT. Mostly a bandit hideout now). I LOVED Vallmar because it was gorgeous and also because I felt like I was in Ironforge. The idiotic bandits and dwarves and probably a number of other fools are deep in the Lyrium business, poor fools, and most appear to be dead or insane. Also, rift demons. What a mess.


Correction: a BEAUTIFUL mess.


Correction: a beautiful HOLY mess.

We clear it out and open it up as a roadway and go to Redcliffe.
Well. Almost. First we meet Blackwall who is busy teaching some hapless farmers how to use shields. Grey Warden? Into my party you go!


Cranky grey warden, of course. Is there any other kind?

(Actually my entire party is cranks:)



Apparently I didn’t bother taking any screenshots in Redcliffe Village but the short version is the former Grand Enchantress, Fiona, has been kicked out of her position and someone new is in power. Alexius seems eager to make arrangements with us (red flag, NO ONE wants to make deals with the inquisition, Emer’s not falling for this!) but is distracted by his son’s “collapse.” Felix (the son) hands a note over asking for a meeting in the Chantry because, and this will come as a shock, we’re going to be betrayed and we are in danger.

If you could see Emer’s face now, it’d be about as shocked as a … what’s unshockable? As that.

In the Chantry is a rift and Dorian, a mage who previously stood under Alexius and is very good friends with Felix. Emer closes the rift and has an alarming chat where she learns there’s danger of a) betrayal (again, unshocked face) and b) time travel. Joy.

Back to Haven and then the big choice: Mages or Templars.


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