Monthly Archives: February 2015




It’s surprisingly hard to find a game that all of my friends get excited about. Except LoL, and I’m sorry to say that I’m the party pooper there. Mobas just don’t do it for me.

Evolve, though, everyone was excited for and I was on board because if everyone wants to play it I’ll at least give it a shot. An expensive shot in this case, but luckily it paid off. I quite like it!

I recorded and this weekend will edit, but actually, the thing I noticed most?

I didn’t assume I’d be bad because I haven’t been playing shooters my whole life. I didn’t assume I’d be bad because I’ve never played this sort of game. And when I was clumsy and, ok, bad (you’ll see the video) at first I realized that it would pass and if I played more I would get better. Even within the first few times of playing, I improved — instead of just using the healing gun because I was too frazzled, I got good at tags and even marking.

And that’s such an obvious thing, right? That’s the way everyone everywhere has always told me to play games. And it took all this time for it to sink in.

I’ll never be mlg. But after all these years, I finally realized I’ll also never be truly terrible.




Madame Snappy-Snips

Today, Emer continues her increasingly worrisome adventure in the Hinterlands and takes a quick trip to Val Royeaux to try and convince a very hostile chantry to support the Inquisition.


In every lair of templar, mage or bandit there seems to be some vein of red lyrium. I WONDER IF THIS IS A PLOT DEVICE. It’s time to move on, Emer thinks.

First, though, she must stop the wolves from attacking the farmers. Through a very complicated series of deductions, she figured out that the Wolf Cave was where they were hiding. Very subtle.


And by some strange coincidence, there are statues of canines in the wolf grotto! Hmm. Anyway, there was a rift demon there (but no rift) corrupting the poor wolves so Emer promptly dispatched him and then the wolves were her best friend. Annoyingly, as they promptly attacked a druffalo back at Redcliffe Farms and then died to it, leaving Emer et all to kill the very annoyed beast. In front of its farmer owner. Who did not react to this barbarism. Oh, video games.

Oh, and the wolves also dropped this! legit

Because sure, why wouldn’t a wolf being wearing a rare amulet grinding 2% bleed on hit. Totally legit, video gamessssss.

And a quick aside, there’s a lot of interesting and sometimes lovely and sometimes horrifying sculpture here in the Hinterlands, but SERIOUSLY what the hell is this.

what is this

We’ve done all we can usefully do so its off to Haven to see what our war table would like us to do. Well, we would have done that, only there’s a total brawl happening in front of the chantry. Mages and Templars that have joined the Inquisition have forgotten that they’re joined under a common cause and are busily accusing each other of killing the Divine. Emer is mentally breathing a sigh of relief that they aren’t blaming her for once, and Cullen is not having ANY OF THIS.


What’s with the smug face, sir? What’s with the red eyes? Are you taking some chemical enhancement to deal with this stress?


Anyway, Cullen is full of sass anyway. Check out this snarky put down. Bless.


Unfortunately for everyone involved, our newest task is to go off to Val Royeaux, the capital city of Orlais, to try and charm the Chantry into loving us and lending us their support.

vrstrangetimesEveryone who walks by looks at Emer like she’s carrying bubonic plague. Not an auspicious start.


At least the scenery is pretty, though! And just when Emer begin to worry that no one has any sense of humor around here…


I LOVE this vandal (who marked nearly every plaque).

The Chantry’s expecting us — with its leader standing ready to negotiate…hahah just kidding no one likes us.

ughhhEmer’s getting realllllll tired of this crap.

vrexcusemeREAL. TIRED.

But before her bow and arrow can come out the head of the Templars in the area knocks your lady out. Hooray, the happy inquisition adventurers think, finally someone is on our side!

Yeah. Right. The templars hate everyone and their leader tells off Cassandra for starting the Inquisition and trusting Emer and so on and so on. They also announce they are withdrawing from Val Royeaux, who no longer deserve their protection. And ok, look, these folks are a bit mad, but in these dark, dark, dark times the Templars seem to be completely abandoning their training and tenants in favor of hurt feelings and a real bad attitude.


Gee. I wonder why he’s acting so out of character. Surely he’s not been corrupted. SURELY NOT.

Fiona, the Grand Enchantress of the mages is there, as well — in contrast to the mad templars, she invites our parties to at least negotiate in Redcliffe village. In Mages vs. Templars right now, Mages are definitely winning.


Someone shoots an arrow into this crowded square with a message for us. This seems very VERY irresponsible, friends of Red Jenny, but I’m all about an adventure.

We’ve done all we usefully can in the city, although I obviously take this opportunity to go for a wander and look for the red handkerchiefs that will lead me to Red Jenny. This place is a treasure trove.



Yes! More Randy Dowager!

vrsnappysnipsI am naming every pet I get from now on Madame Snappy-Snips, no matter sex or type.








Snow days.

I have this image, right, of winter vacations. Of sitting in front of a fire with a mug of something hot and really thick woolen socks on and a blanket and a snoring dog. Snow hissing against the windows. The light gentle and warm. And, most importantly, a video game in my lap.

The amount of times that that has actually happened since I was a teenager are minimal because real life doesn’t usually allow for days like that.  There’s shoveling and work and chores and always other things to do.

This year feels different, though. Not that I suddenly don’t have other things to do, it’s just that I’ve realized how many of them are false busyness, distractions. And I have trained my concentration back up so it’s not five minutes at a time, look at my phone, back for five minutes. And also? I have to say, I’m pretty happy right now.

So I have a lot of fun games on the radar, just to give you a sense of what I want to do.

– Finishing DA:I (this is looking like 100 hours of gameplay, I’m glad I didn’t try to record)

– Evolve – Giving this a first go tonight, including recording, and I’m expecting to be laughably terrible at it.

– More Minecraft!

– Possibly Dying Light

– Mobile games. I may have to throw in the towel on freaking Limbo — or buy the steam version and just finish it, because controls are the worst.


And you know what? The very first snow day I have, I’m going to make that image a reality. I might replace the roaring fireplace with a roaring stove, and I might struggle to not stress about real life things, but it’s going to be a thing. I had such a tough few years and suddenly things are ok, and I just need to grab that with every bit of my being while I can.

February, you’re doing me RIGHT.

Stealing from the poor.

It happens in a lot of video games, especially RPGs. There you are, wandering without permission into someone’s house, and you find them all upset over something. You listen with half an ear to their sob story — Maura’s, in this case, telling Emer how her husband was killed by templars when he was hoeing the garden because they thought the hoe was a sword.

image (2)


And then you see it.

image (1)

And then, no matter how moral a character you are playing, no matter how good you are about helping the ill and tracking down thieves and petting puppies and comforting babies, AND THEN you show your true nature.



And you may comfort yourself by bringing back a token to the apparently willfully blind homeowner, but it’s too late. You are already branded as the person who STEALS FROM THE PEOPLE THEY ARE HELPING.
You monster.


Sunday updates, the long dark teatime of the soul.


Even though Sunday is technically the start of my weekend, it’s never lost the solemn air Sundays always have — the day I grew up going to church on, the day before the start of a new week, the day of fires and newspapers and donuts. I LIKE Sundays, usually, although I agree with Douglas Adams about some Sunday afternoons:


“In the end, it was the Sunday afternoons he couldn’t cope with, and that terrible listlessness which starts to set in at about 2:55, when you know that you’ve had all the baths you can usefully have that day, that however hard you stare at any given paragraph in the papers you will never actually read it, or use the revolutionary new pruning technique it describes, and that as you stare at the clock the hands will move relentlessly on to four o’clock, and you will enter the long dark teatime of the soul.

But I’m more than an hour away from 2:55 and the candle is jumping in its holder, the rain is falling, and I have a dog snoring next to me. In a few minutes I’ll dive back into Dragon Age and I have so much to say about Sera who I can’t have in my party but whom I adore.


It’s the kind of day I wish I was reading a cozy mystery — I am reading a mystery (the Silkworm) which is very page turning but not quite the same. I wish I was reading Sherlock Holmes for the first time, or that I hadn’t read every Agatha Christie ever already. (Holly, in Red Dwarf, agrees with me — he has Dave erase the memory of Christie books from his database to help pass endless space time, and I’m sensing a theme here). Ditto, actually, with Wodehouse which is often set in summer and rarely has a mystery but very neatly fits the cozy side of things.

IMG_1507Anyway. A check in before the start of next week. It’s been a nice one — I love winter, the cold light (and the cold air) and the big snow moons and even the grey rain. I love it for its very bleakness, because it hones your attention and your work and your thoughts. I love the way candles seem warmer and any sunlight seems like a gift and the way that I try to catch its reflection everywhere. I love the piles of blankets on my bed and curling around a book and everything about this season except for the fact that I can’t give the dog daily walks after work. But soon. If the snow melts enough to let me into the woods, that is.




Having fought off chantry naysayers and given her full hearted support to the Inqusition, Emer and party (limited choices being Cassandra, Varric and Solas) head to the Hinterlands to win the hearts and souls of some very tired people.

I like Dragon Age’s open world ish feel. I arrived in the hinterlands and started picking up quests, going in the opposite direction to the main quest tracker because guess what game, you don’t get to tell me what to do, I AM MY OWN PERSON.

My general play style is collect all the quests and then complete them in a big loop. It’s actually not the most efficient method because there are quests every freaking where and they had me backtracking frequently, so I wised up and made a beeline towards…


binky3This horse. He is amazing. And tell me you don’t have the song stuck in your head nowmyhorseisamazinggiveitalick. And he is named Binky, yes — to Jordan’s disgust. But whatever, he named his horse SEABISCUIT and if we’re going for cultural references the name of Death’s horse is FAR superior to SEABISCUIT.

Anyway, horse acquired, we do some wandering. We meet the crazy cultists in the hills (they are worshiping the rift in the hopes of appeasing the power that opened the rift in the first place) and ok maybe that’s kind of nuts but check out these digs.


I mean, I’d join this damn cult in a heartbeat. Emer handily convinces the leader that she’s the real deal by closing a rift they had at the end of their little compound here, and I take back what I said about wanting to join them, who builds a hq on a rift, who DOES that. Also in here is a very sad nobleman waiting for his lost love (whose body Emer literally stumbled over on her way here). He appreciates our kindness in letting him know. There’s also a son who has been trying to convince his parents to join him in the cult; they won’t leave their farmland. Unfortunately for everyone involved, there’s a very ill mother who needs a potion that only the son can make — I suppose this is supposed to reinforce the tough choices of war (and to humanize the cult) but actually it just made me think WRITE THE POTION DOWN DUMBASS.

There’s an overarching theme here — things have been bad in the hinterlands for a long time. The templars and the mages have been killing each other without pause, and killing innocents caught in the crossfire, too. And no one — not the chantry, not templar or mage leadership — has bothered to try and make things right. People are skeptical about Emer’s ability to help them, and very skeptical about her claim to be the Herald of Andraste, but when she does something for them, their gruff gratefulness is touching.

I spent a lot of time in the Hinterlands just looking at the scenery, to be honest. lovely

I also stumbled upon a worried guardsman who was missing a colleague. I found her, beset by templars, and saved her. Weirdly, there was a dead mage at her feet, and signs of a picnic…after some pointed questioning she admitted they were passing the time.scandalThe good news about this — about DA:I in general — is that the scandal is because she was dallying with a mage, not because she was dallying with a woman. Emer’s a soft heart, so she lets them off the hook — “I shouldn’t worry,” she said, leaving  the presumably heartbroken guard to her work.

There are definite signs of corruption here — more than just templars and mages gone mad, there’s an outside source working on them. Emer read this letter:



Proving, I guess, that there’s still some thread of control left in the corrupted. He died under this very alarming statue, which had rotting fruit at its base.


Emer’s companions don’t comment, but I’d like to think she’s growing more and more alarmed at what she’s seeing here. Even the animals, the wolves and bears, are growing more angry.

ogrepoopLook, I know that food is scarce and no one should let anything go to waste but those sausages look very alarming like ogre poop and Emer must have felt a little sick to her stomach after seeing them.

Having rescued good mother Giselle of the chantry at the battle of the crossroads (some battle, there were three groups of templars/mages!) and agreeing to try and convince the chantry of her status as the herald, Emer decides to stop in back at Haven to see how folks are doing and, you know, poke. So how are folks doing? Well, they’re blind drunk apparently.

ddWhich is probably a natural reaction to the past few days, really, but I feel for the poor DD here, bored and alone amongst his passed out companions.


There are also some amazing portraits that Emer’s got a chance to look at in detail:ears mrburns

She stops to chat with Varric, who warns her that he’s both flattered and “inclined to lie extravagantly” and with Solas who doesn’t waste this chance to sigh over Varric (and his chest hair. And his wit. Oh, Solas).varricandsolas

There’s also this alarming fellow who looks like Sander Cohen from Bioshock. He apparently is the owner of Haven and he is NOT HAPPY about the goings on and the shelter the Inquisition is offering to refugees. Emer is a bit of a shit stirrer here, probably because she’s terrified by that FACE what the hell. There’s probably some essential piece of Dragon Age lore that explains this all. Anyroad, our amazing ambassador, Lady Motilyet, sugars him into patience.


Haven thoroughly explored, it’s time to head back to the hinterlands to finish it up. And to be brave.afraid

A house of birch and glass

So back in WoW my chosen profession was an engineer. Engineering was full of toys — fun stuff that you built, tinkers for your gear, goggles with odd attachments. And leveling engineering is best done with a pad of paper and good record keeping, because everything you make requires tons of fiddly little bits. You can’t just make the items that are orange (guaranteed skill ups) because you’ll have to go back and make the green ones — and you’ll chew through your mats.

Minecraft kind of feels like WoW engineering. There are a lot of little fiddly bits. I’m no pro (I’m playing the xBone version so I don’t even have access to modded minecraft) but I really enjoy learning from scratch.

When we started this particular server, no one I was playing with had ever played before, except me. And I had played only long enough to make a boxy house and die a ton while spelunking and lose all my shit. We did the requisite searching for the perfect place — close to a village (for stealing veggies, natch), lots of resources, the meeting of three biomes.

And then we built. I told Choo the other day that I found Minecraft literally the most relaxing game I had ever played. And thats a category that includes Diablo, a game I treasure for its mood boost effects. He asked for clarification and I probably tripped over myself to provide it but it’s a game that requires a process.


Take our town hall (I still don’t have screenshots, I’m the worst). I fully admit the design was borrowed because it was my first big build and I wanted to learn the process of building with accents — I didn’t want just a big stone block. I already knew about using stairs for a roof, but this was a building with angles and windows and jutting roofs.

I was building from a picture, not a plan, so I had to puzzle over it. As a side note, spatial reasoning is a serious weakness for me. I’m not good at seeing something from one angle and imagining how it will look from another. So this was a serious challenge. And then there’s the way different elements work together — half slabs and blocks and glass and stairs. I spent about a day and a half building this thing and it was total bliss.

The process was mining cobble, cooking it into stone, making the stone into stone bricks, and also making half stone slabs (not stone brick slabs) from the plain cobble. The roof was cobble bricks. Jordan helped by building me scaffolding which I fell off of every few minutes.

The big build was our town hall; then we each built our own house. I’m pretty proud of mine — I had initially wanted a brick and wood house, but clay is no where in the rivers near us, so I had to go hunting and I kept a) dying and b) getting lost so I gave up. I wanted something different…and high up. So I used some shears to flatten our tree line which we bordered the island with, built some stairs out of the sheared leaves, and built a birch (raw, not plank) and glass house with a tree roof. I had to put a glass ceiling in because the rain dripped but I love it. It’s tiny, it has a gorgeous view, and it’s different…and I built it out of my own head. I still need to fix the roof though.

The problem is now I’m out of big builds. I started to work on our minecart track but that doesn’t get my attention the same way the buildings do. We need a pool but…same idea, not all that exciting to build (and a pain to fill even with an infinite water source nearby).

Still. I do love Minecraft. DragonAge may have my attention at the moment, but Minecraft is going to keep it over the long term.


Don’t Starve (Let’s Starve, Together!)



Since quitting WoW, the former members of MToD are trying to keep together by playing fun multiplayer games that don’t have any sort of stress involved — no big deal if someone can’t play on a given night, etc. The first entry is Don’t Starve Together, which I recommended and bought for us all. I was unable to convince Pay and E4 about Minecraft, and Jordan is so firmly anti-GMod that I’m not sure I’ll ever sway him. But everyone was willing to play Don’t Starve.

All I knew about the game was from watching some Youtubers (I’ve bought more games because of watching youtubers) play the single player. I knew about the dogs at night, the light, the fire, the camps. I knew you move faster on a road, and that finding Chester is good and food is important.

I love the art style and the sound effects (very teacher-in-charlie-brown, honk honk) and the humor (Abazoe has died and is now a spooky ghost! ooOOooo!) and I enjoy playing games with these guys. But…

Somewhere around day four every time I started getting bored. That might be because I didn’t know what to do — I mean, we built farms, moved berry bushes, lit firepits. I was pretty good at keeping my own health and sanity and hunger up but less good at finding and building other stuff, not dying to spiders and especially not dying in a swamp. So I’d wander, try and get enough food for my starving teammates who were good at those latter things, and be bored.

That’s not against the game. I think it’s actually an excellent game, just not the right one for me (I was willing to give it another try, but we’ve lost E4 to the ravages of tax season and Jordan to DA:I; I’m going to perhaps do it with just Payback and see how it fairs as a 2 player game). So now, I’m off to wage a campaign to make Gmod our next game because nothing says fun and brotherly(sisterly) teamwork like murdering your friends in Garry’s Mod.  Hear that, Jordan? I’ll be gunning for you and Payback. I’ll keep E4 on my side. Healer grudges.



I met a dragon.



Sunday I lost four hours playing Dragon Age: Inquisition. I haven’t even made it out of the first questing zone, the Hinterlands, because I cannot resist finishing every damn quest, finding every damn landmark, closing every rift.

More, I actually CARE about the story. It’s not mindless completion. I want to increase the inquisition’s reach. I want to prove to these skeptical, traumatized people that I’m there to help, to kill the thoughtless templars and mages who are destroying the world. I’m hooked.

It was good timing. I needed a game that distracted me from WoW, that tried out my new graphics card, that looked pretty. It worked.

So let’s talk.

Within the first few moments of the game, this happens.




And then, like, this happens.


Look. I’m not afraid of spiders. But I DEFY you to look on that detailed, leathery back and those lotus eyes  and not SHUDDER. I might have a touch of Trypophobia. Don’t click on that if lotus flowers freak you out, fyi.

Anyway. Emer, my girl, is being chased by those while desperately trying to reach a glowing golden figure with no discernible features. I’m beginning to think this might be a horror game.



Emer awakes in a cell, hands bound and a pair of very very angry women glaring at her. Nothing like being greeted by a furious woman demanding a reason to not kill you. Elmer’s designed for maximum sad face. It’s an effective tool, as angry Cassandra found out within a minute of meeting her.

E:”What, EVERYONE DIED? /sadface.”

C: “Shit. Shit. Ok, fine, I’ll use you, just stop it.”

Emer’s got a problem. Her hand is on fire and everyone thinks she is a mass murdering fuckhead and Cassandra would like to rip her throat out except she’s needed. Outside, she gets her first glimpse at the scale of the emergency.

I feel REALLY foolish about this joke.

I feel REALLY foolish about this joke.

Cassandra thinks Emer might be able to close the rifts and frog marches her through the town full of very very furious people, some of whom aren’t falling for Emer’s face.


After all, everyone is dead. Remember. EVERYBODY IS DEAD, DAVE. DAVE. EVERYBODY IS DEAD.


Cassandra unbends enough to cut Emer’s hands free and they toddle off, happily enough, to go face the rifts. Every once in a while the rift pulses and Emer collapses in writhing agony (Cassandra helpfully explains that it IS KILLING HER in shouty terms, because that’s reassuring, CASSANDRA).

About halfway through the trek, tripping over dead bodies (and looting them, because Emer’s cold), Emer gets her first Rift experience:


Her reaction is 100% appropriate.


The THING and its minions are promptly dispatched, Cassandra unbends enough to let Emer keep a weapon, and we get to meet the love of my life.


Oh Varric. I don’t know why I love you so, but I do. I would hope you’re romanceable but I’m afraid your heart already has two claims laid on it: Bianca the crossbow and Solas the elf.


The FLIRTING between these two if they’re in your party is UNBELIEVABLE. Varric, for some reason, has nicknamed Solas Chuckles, and Chuckles here can’t help asking Varric personal questions about his history — “merely curious!” Pfft. Two more obvious and oblivious flirts I have never seen.

Party complete, we meet a chantry hardass (and jackass) that I forgot to take pictures of, decide to take a trip through a snowy mountain pass, go through a creepy mine, rescue some scouts and arrive at last at the most horrific, burnt body strewn place I have ever seen.


Emer doesn’t have time to be traumatized by this, though, because a bigger challenge awaits our poor foursome, in the form of a massive rift and its equally massive guardian. Hey, Emer girl, remember that eeeuggghhh face from before? Bet you regret wasting it so early.



Jackass McGee is no match for Emer and her compatriots, so he’s killed and she closes the rift and promptly passes the fuck out — but not before a cut scene informs Cassandra et al that Emer was actually innocent all along. Probably. Go figure.

Emer awakes back in Haven where people are warmed, slightly, to her. A quick wander around:


Neither Emer or I are reassured by this note on our treatment at the hands of Solas. Yikes. She feels lucky to be breathing.

matriarchyThat’s right, fucker, this here is a damn matriarchy.

dontwrongthesepeopleEmer. Take note. These are the ancestors of the Havenites (I think). Just, don’t piss them off.

furrowingGoodness gracious!

Anyway I was caught up in the story for the next few minutes, but the gist is the Chantry and the Templars can’t be trusted (and are fighting amongst themselves, because that never changes) and with no Divine in place to lead Cassandra, Leiliana, Cullen and others have decided it’s time for the Inquisition to be reborn. Emer agrees, and it’s off to the hinterlands to begin our true story.


Housekeeping: Have Read/Am Reading

Now for a bit of housekeeping, so I can get back into the swing of things.


I kept a list of books I’d read last year with a vague goal of 50 books in mind. That felt like a modest number, something I would exceed without even trying. I was kind of sorrowful to discover I didn’t even come close. Well, I say didn’t come close — I was at 42. I thought about it some and realized there were a few things that made me fall flat; one was the fact that I reread too much. Bored? Didn’t feel like being challenged? Well, let’s read every Terry Pratchett book in order (again!).

Also, classics. A year that included Ulysses and Crime and Punishment and The Adventures of Augie Marsh was never going to beat any blockbuster totals.

And then there was the whole concentration thing. I did a lot of reading on my iPad and it was far too easy to close the book and open twitter, or glance at emails, or chat with friends, or mindlessly press links on the web.

I’ve started off strong this year, though. No more re-reads allowed. So my list for January:

The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book and The Well of Lost Plots — Jasper Fforde’s cheerfully insane mysteries featuring an entire world ruled by and created by books.

Something More than Night – Ian Tregillis. A noir (kind of) fantasy about fallen angels and overlapping worlds and the sensation of being played from start to finish. Very fun.

The Last Dragonslayer — Jasper Fforde, again, because I’d read the next book in the Thursday Next series and I don’t remember it well, so I couldn’t skip and couldn’t reread but needed a palette cleanser from:

Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov. This book was amazing. I got lost in the language, always the sign of something remarkable. But, I couldn’t shake the shivers it gave me, that skin crawling feeling of slime. Humbert Humbert is SO unlikable as a narrator, I don’t understand how anyone can read this book and see tenderness in his feelings towards Lolita, see anything sweet or touching here. But the book itself was clearly a masterpiece.

The Oversight (Oversight Trilogy) — Charlie Fletcher. I’ve wanted to read more fantasy again, I’ve missed it and it was such a part of my reading life as a kid and a teen. This one got added to my to read list from Boing Boing, I think. I like it quite a lot.


In the to read pile:

Wings, Diggers, Truckers — the Terry Pratchett books I’ve not read as they aren’t part of Discworld.

The Silkworm, because I actually found the first JK Rowling mystery readable and entertaining.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Ok, this is a reread for probably the fifth time but I don’t think rereading classics counts against my utterly arbitrary rule. And I actually quite like this classic. It feels dark and full of corners and secrets and I remember reading it my first week abroad, listening to rain drip from my window with its view of a concrete carpark about three feet from the glass, listening to my new roommates discuss my arrival (“She seems normal; I was hoping for someone completely mad!”), listening to the feeling of being completely free for the first time in months.


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