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. ­čÖé

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. ­čÖé
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!

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March Update: More MMOs

A new month come and gone!

You know those moments when it seems like your body is just going “f*** you!” and tries to pile all these problems on at the same time? Yeah…. >.> Previous illness is getting under control, but now new issues arise and my body is definitely trying to war with me. Thank you…. -_-”

But as highlights of the month, GDC week was in March. I didn’t go (I’m not in games anymore), but I did catch up with some old classmates and alumni from the ETC. It was nice seeing them again, strangely nostalgic and bittersweet (as it reminded me of the joys and trials of working at EA). I got a┬áfast forward update of the gaming industry trends of the year and #1 at GDC… was virtual reality. Honestly? I’m not┬átoo excited about this. I’ve tried Oculus and Google Cardboard equivalents from other developers and while it’s fun┬áand very immersive to see an environment react to the rotation of my head, the motion sickness it induces really reduces gameplay to just a few minutes. So while my fantasy would definitely be to immerse in a 1st person MMO┬áand take on dragons from the perspective of my character’s avatar, that disconnect between what I’m seeing and what my body is really doing is too jarring to endure for any┬álong-term session. A friend of mine who works in VR explained it to me once before (something to do with inner-ear fluid┬ámotion). If these┬ánew VR models can somehow mitigate that issue, then we definitely have a game hardware revolution on our hands. But…┬áuntil then, I’ll just keep watching from the sidelines…

… And play more Guild Wars 2! ­čśÇ

My friends, sadly, are not inclined┬áto join me in my in-game roaming (they’re all committed to other titles), so I’ve started reaching out to other online gamers, namely joining a public guild (it is a game called ” guild wars”). My first encounters were a little… creepy (apparently being female in real life is a novelty worth noting and oggling in the online gaming world… which is weird to me since most of my MMO-playing friends are female), but for the most part, GW2 players are very friendly. I ended up joining a role-playing group, RPcd. I’ve never┬áreally done┬árole play before. The closest I’ve gotten is in my game design class back in grad school where we had to design one, and a guy in my group ran us through a mini D&D dungeon, but this wasn’t quite the same since the characters were given to us and no one was really playing out their roles. This group is very light on the “role-play” part, though some┬ádo play in-character. They are an action-based guild that likes to welcome new players and help guide others across the maps of Tyria, and they are flexible about having people jump in and leave as real-life calls, so it’s a good group to just find friendly faces to play with. Honestly you have to run & fight so much that it’s hard to really stop and type out a line… so to me so far, it’s just mindless roaming and killing of things with an occasional emote about the environment or pretending to drink water from a canteen. Some of them really do get in to the role-playing aspects, and I feel a little awkward witnessing it (intimate conversations that are emoted get seen by everyone), but for me, it’s really no different than getting immersed in a RPG’s story and then saying the lines you think your character would REALLY say in that situation. I mean, when u finally beat that dragon, don’t you want to cheer with the other players?

I have not gotten that deep in to the role-playing part yet. Maybe I will in the future since I do like creative writing (and maybe not with this group, b/c I don’t think it would be very easy for me with the given pace). This is kind of like the campfires back in writing.com days, I think. ­čÖé

Finally,┬áhere is an image of my new level 80 Human Thief, Sonieeee wearing some variation┬áof a medium armor outfit (or what I could remember of it). Probably somewhere in Sparkfly Fen. The blue thing next to her is called a Quaggan, which I recently got as a stuffed animal from a friend who went to GDC and knew I was a GW2 fan. ­čÖé

Sophie and a Quaggan
Sophieee, my Guild Wars 2 character with a Quaggan.

February Update: Board Games and MMOs

February seems to have flown by fast! It makes sense (somewhat) because of the missing days, but that really did seem to disappear as soon as it arrived.

I’m still sick, but, I think, slowly improving… I was able to do more this month than the last. I’ll call that a step in the right direction. ­čÖé

This month’s social activities probably had more to do with game playing than anything else.

I went to a board game meetup in Palo Alto and finally got to try out 7 Wonders… a board/card game where you compete with your neighboring players to build structures and monuments for your ancient civilization by taking and passing around resources and cards. Surprisingly fast and simple, once you start playing. Probably the more advanced players will strategize the type of cards they hand off to the neighboring player, but since we were all noobs, it was a randomization, in a way. I liked the variability. The initial cards you take and the selected civilization you play for can change the strategy you take on for point collection.

Another day, a friend had a game night at his place where I introduced a bunch of friends to Pandemic. Pandemic is a collaborative board game where you take on the role of CDC members and fight against the rapid spread of a disease. It is extremely difficult and even on easy mode, is not easy to beat. After borrowing the board game from a friend months ago, I finally was able to crack it open and get some people to sit down and play. It can be a slow game due to the potential amount of collaborative thinking required, so finding time and willing participants is always a challenge. We lost at the very end, though I think we had a good battle going while the game lasted.

I also got to try a new card game called Machi Koro while at work (a coworker of mine, also an avid board game player, brought it in for some Friday afternoon gaming). Machi Koro is a town-building game that mixes deck-building with dice-rolling. You buy cards with earned coins and roll dice to activate the purchased cards. It’s a nice blend of strategy and chance, planning out the best set of cards for bonus coin and attacks, hoping and praying for a rolled 8 (or 9 or 10) so you can collect the big money and clear the game. There are more types of cards in the box than you put on the table during a game, so each game can play differently depending on the layout.

Onwards to digital gaming! A coworker got me to take the plunge and buy a copy of Final Fantasy 14. It’s not my first time playing it, though this IS my first time creating a character on my own account. Initial reaction is still not positive. It’s very slow and full of Japanese game design choices, like excessive un-skippable dialog, silent staring, a crowded UI filled with text, and the purposely-added up-panty camera angles. The panties have lace trims, btw.

Coming from a year’s worth of Guild Wars 2 playing, FF14 just isn’t quite cutting it for me. The battle system is slow and there’s no sense of direction or purpose. I just don’t feel like I have the freedom of movement as I do in GW2. Nor the sense of an expansive open world as I did in GW2. The map is confusing and moving around in it is not as streamlined. Thus far, it just feels like I exist as a random character in this world. There’s no motivation (and I’m rather blocked by my low level anyways) to seek out some excitement. GW2, at least, made it very easy to feel drawn in with their many world events that chained with each other. The voice acting too, is very impressive.

That said, I know a lot of people like FF14 and I have more friends who play FF14 than GW2 (no one wants to return and join meeeee ­čÖü ). I still have ~20 days on my subscription, so I’ll keep trying it until that expires, then likely back to GW2. FF14 just feels too much like a grindy chore.