June & July Update – Trip to Ohio and Some Games

Hi again. I missed a month’s update. Oops. Well, here’s my update for the last 2 months then. πŸ™‚

June and July, the summer months that see a lot of street festivals, food festivals, and all sorts of activity in the Bay Area. I’m still recuperating from long-term illness (at least I think I’m healing. Sometimes it’s hard to tell), so didn’t partake in the outdoor adventures of my area. Really, I was looking for something relaxing that I could share with people I love as the ideal summer experience. So, after booking an extended trip home to my family, I also started hunting for local adventures we could have in the area.

Ohio has fun things to do, but when you’ve lived there for years, the tourist attractions lose their appeal (I think I understand the New Yorkers who never visit Ellis Island now). And at least for me, it’s the little hidden gems that become the highlights of a town anyways. The biggest “gem” being right at home… mom’s cooking, warm sunny days on a patio with lush grass beneath and a vegetable garden starting to produce. It’s a picturesque American life in my eyes.
Banana Peppers
A patch of Banana Peppers growing in my mom’s scattered garden.
We went to Amish Country once, being very close to my family’s home and a common stop for the locals b/c of their traditional foods and crafts. Hartville Kitchen is always a good stop for “country cookin'”, though beware the butter and lard used in EVERYTHING. The portions are also quite huge for the prices too. Tasty, but you know… stomach issues.
And then as a new treat for both me and my mom, I booked a spa trip at the Spa Walden in Aurora. It’s… a bucket list item for me (if I could say I have a bucket list) to experience a resort spa. This wasn’t technically a resort per se but it was a full day of pampering at a quality venue and I figured, since I’m not booking any international flights or tours, let’s splurge on this one thing that not only benefits me, but also lets me pamper someone else (my mom deserved some relaxation). Spa Walden is a lovely venue in the middle of nowhere. I try to think of it like the spas in Napa, just with grass or corn fields nearby instead of vineyards. The spa room was decorated with real luxuries including a centered hot tub, a steam room (with the coolest shower ever!), areas to lounge, champaign, tea, snacks, and all the amenities you might possibly need during your stay. Most of it wouldn’t be used b/c of the time available in the room, but hey… it’s there to provide options for relaxation. πŸ™‚
Spa Walden Room Interior
Where we spend our day in luxurious pampering.
In the end? I’m glad I did it! But … I will likely never do that again. Expensive (with some unexpected fees in the final bill that really should have been listed up front (if you say gratuity is included, the price on the site better show the gratuity on it!)) and really, after 1 hour of pampering, I was done and wanting it to be over. Lol. Pampering is nice, but after an hour I wanted to be up and active.
By far my greatest memory, and repeated daily experience of this trip, was the puppy. Parents got a puppy last year that I did get to see during the Christmas Holidays (hyper and fearless ball of fur). Really a dog now, he still has the playfulness of a puppy, but is becoming more aware of his strength (and sharp teeth and nails). He folds his feet in when sitting on your lap (so his nails don’t scratch. Let’s ignore the fact he’s really too big to be a lap dog) and immediately stops playing if he accidentally bites too hard. I will always be amused at how he handles misbehavior. You can see the progress of logic in his actions as he tests his limits…. No I can’t bite? Ok, well how about nibbling? No? Can I lick then? No? Nuzzle? Ok. Nuzzle.
He still tries to sit on people’s heads, though won’t try to climb up you to do it (just be careful if you’re laying on a bed that he’s allowed on). It’s not a dominance thing or anything like that. He just likes to cuddle heads. And be in high places. Otherwise he is very attached to people, eager to please, and incredibly intelligent.
I watched him learn the word “leash” in 2 days after we started using it to reference “walk”. I saw him also learn how to open latch doors on his own and follow people outside. Super intelligent and makes me wish I had one with me always.
Toby the border collie mix
Toby being ridiculously cute
But back home in the month of July, I suppose gaming has made itself the highlight of my month. Steam Sale happened and this is the first time I took advantage and bought a bunch of games. Here goes!

Life is Strange –Β I’m currently in the process of completing. It’s a little difficult for me to get in to b/c I get all hung up on the different choices. I know what I’d do in the situation, but you only have SO much control over the main character. Lol I will say, the environment makes me think of the road trip we took 2 years ago up the Oregon Coast and now from this game I can see why the travel guide websites said to stay on the main path and watch out for meth labs. This games makes me think Oregon is a run down place to live. But the whole grunge look is very defining of Oregon (and Washington). As is the beautiful scenery. And breakfast diners being the highlight food spot… very reminiscent of that road trip. Haha.
It’s a pretty impressive story game and I heard recently they’re going to turn it in to a live-action direct-to-streaming-video series. It would fit. I think as a dramatic serial, it’d make a great show.

Stardew Valley –Β It’s a cute premise: You, sick of working for corporate corporation (which I’m pretty sure is Amazon in this game), take up your deceased relative’s farm in a small town. You’re given a bunch of different objectives, but everything is optional in this sandbox game. You plant things, care for a garden, explore a cave, forage, fish, etc etc in order to make money and build improvements upon your lands and the town. It’s got elements from the old 8-bit gaming days (including slime monsters). I could see people sinking many hours in to this, but after a few hours of playing, I was done. It’s actually quite difficult to make money in the game, and when I saw how long I’d have to wait for the seasons to restart, I gave up. I wish there was a way to cheat, like with the Sims. Or adjust some of the timers, like the duration of a season, or the duration of a day. I think the energy meter and the speed of the day/night cycle made it difficult to play as it could take you all day to just get to the opposite side of town and fish. It becomes a major resource manager where even time must be managed. And when that factor came in to play, I just thought… time management is what I do IRL. Kind of frustrating to have to fight it in-game too.

In the end, all it does it make me want to play Animal Crossing. Pretty much all my pain points with this game go away in Animal Crossing. It’s real time, instead of this sped-up game time, making for a game you can spend hours on or just play for a few minutes per day. I hear it’s going to be released on smartphones soon. Can’t wait!
And of course, there’s Pokemon Go –Β omg how did that explode. I love this. At some point in my game dev history, we prototyped a similar game and saw pitches of others who also prototyped gps-related games that never really took off anywhere. I guess this is proof that brand exposure is very important for game popularity. The core interactive concept and consequences are the smae though, and what makes me so happy this game succeeded in spite of similar games’ past failures. It breaks that 4th wall between game and real life interaction. Sure people are staring at their phones still, but they’re talking with each other about it. They’re going en-mass to parks to play together with their phones. There’s cohesion between our digital world and the physical one we were concerned was being left behind.
I think it also shows that most people are just like you too. Playing the game, wanting to have fun, wanting to share the experience. There’s a few people who take advantage of that and attack or rob or otherwise exploit the innocence of others, but for the most part, people are together in this positive experience. πŸ™‚
And… now I’m back to Guild Wars 2 –Β I’m still enjoying this game, in spite of recent exposure to the corporate side of things. They released a new chapter to the living story, but it seems everything is coming out at a slower pace. And not at the same level of complexity and polish as before. :\ Perhaps they are being stretched too thin… have too many ideas and paths to take compared to their size. I don’t expect this new story arc to be any good since the last one ended so poorly (great build up, but it’s like through the corporate shuffle, the dropped the ball and swept the pieces under the rug to build up something new), but I still love the beauty of the world, the collaborative campaigns across the maps, and the mini plots/details of the character interactions in the worlds that already exist. It’s pretty cool. πŸ™‚

Author: Ting Chen

Artist and Author. Owner of TingChen.net

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