Tag: firewatch

further adventures in sleeplessness

This post will be somewhat random.  I am tired.  The boy’s sleep habits are continuing to evolve and change; last night it took him about 45 minutes to stop getting out of bed, which is better than most nights, but then he climbed into our bed at around 2:00am, and he does not necessarily sleep lengthwise.  (Funnily enough, when our alarms went off at 6:00am and we turned our lights on, he very slowly climbed out of our bed and very sleepily walked back into his room and climbed back into his own bed.)

There is also a faint, weird smell in my office, hovering near my desk.  The engineers have been here all morning; nothing’s on fire, but it has that dusty heat smell, like a space heater kicking on after a long period of dormancy.  I am distracted.


 

I would love to offer up some insightful comments after playing bits of both Superhot and Far Cry Primal, but I can’t.  The above-mentioned issues with my kid’s bedtime are interfering with my evening free time, and by the time he does finally go to bed I’m usually too exhausted to do anything.  If I’m repeating myself, well, what can I say?  It is what it is.

Superhot is awesome, and I am also not very good at it.  I’ve tried playing it with the Steam controller (which is very, very bad), with mouse and keyboard (which is better), and with the good ol’ 360 gamepad (which is probably best), and I continue to get killed very quickly.  I am tempted to wait on it until the XB1 version comes out, which is supposedly coming in a few weeks; I’m wondering if perhaps my couch and big TV might at least make the experience more comfortable.

Far Cry Primal, on the other hand… well, it’s basically Far Cry 3 and 4, but in the Stone Age.  So it’s not exactly the same game – there are no guns, cars or gyrocopters, obviously, and you’re speaking in caveman gibberish – but in nearly every other respect it’s the same game I’ve played over the last 2-3 years.  I appreciate the novelty of the game’s setting, and the game looks fantastic… but I really don’t know if I care enough to keep pushing through.  It’s not like the game’s story is all that interesting, and in the meantime the game suffers from that ubiquitous Ubisoft-ness where the map is covered with so many different things to do that it’s nearly impossible to know what’s actually important.  Mostly I gather flowers and light bonfires.  I’m holding onto it for at least a few more weeks, because there’s nothing else on my radar until The Division, but I’m not feeling pulled toward it with any urgency.


 

I’m kinda racing through Foucault’s Pendulum, now, which I don’t like doing.  It’s a book that I still have very fond feelings for, but it’s also somewhat tedious in its digressions; I didn’t mind that so much in my previous readings, but for whatever reason I’m finding it tedious now.

I’m wondering if part of this feeling of urgency is tied to the Goodreads challenge.  I’m still 4 books ahead of schedule, but I don’t particularly like feeling rushed.  And I’m reluctant to read some of the longer books in my to-read list for that specific reason; I don’t want to get bogged down in something enormous if I start feeling like I’m falling behind.  I’m fully aware that this is a ridiculous, self-imposed neurosis; I don’t win a prize for beating the challenge.  That doesn’t stop me from succumbing to it.


Two good reads to recommend:

  1. Holly Green wrote an absolute stunner of a piece about Firewatch and unrequited love; I only wish I felt as strongly about the game itself as I do about this essay.
  2. John Biggs wrote a pretty great piece about writing 11,000 blog posts.  That essay is why I’m writing this particular post right now, even though I feel like I have very little to say.

I need to get back to the album.  I took a little break from thinking about it, and that break got extended thanks to the boy’s recent adventures in stretching out his bedtime boundaries, but honestly I could come up with a dozen more excuses (Trump!  Thinking about getting a new car!  My day job’s impending office move!) and none of them would change the simple and obvious fact that if I wanted to find time to write, I’d make the time to write.  Well, I need to make that time happen.  So I’m logging off now.

 

 

sleepless in suburbia

Before I begin, a word of warning:  I am tired.  This is a different tired from the usual exhaustion of a busy week at work and parental duties.  This is the tired that comes from our almost-3-year-old son, who now refuses to go to bed.  Since the day we brought him home from the hospital he’d always been a terrific sleeper, but for the last two nights he’s completely changed his ways.  We get him into his jimmy-jams, we brush his teeth, we read three books, we tuck him into bed, we turn on his night lights and his little sound machine, we turn off the light, we close the door… and then, 5 seconds later, he tear-asses out of bed, opens the door, and looks at us, giggling.  We lead him back to bed, tuck him in wordlessly, close the door.  He gets up.  Last night this went from 8:00 until around 9:30.  In the grand scheme of things, that isn’t terrible; we’ve had friends whose children refused to sleep, and to his credit our son does eventually conk out.  But it is exhausting, especially since my wife and I are both a little under the weather, and we both have stuff to do after he goes to sleep.

So, yeah; between Henry’s late night antics and the barrage of work-related stuff, there’s been (a) little opportunity to write, and (b) not much of an opportunity to gather topics to write about.  But I’m gonna do my best here.

1.  I started and finished Firewatch last weekend.  I’ve read a number of illuminating and insightful pieces about it (Brendan Keogh, Emily Short, Ed Smith, among others), which have helped me piece together my own opinion about it, though I’m still not 100% sure I know what I want to say about it.  It feels less like a “walking simulator” and rather very much like an interactive short story, with wonderful dialogue and terrific voice casting.  And of course, given that the player character’s name is Henry (as is my son’s), I felt even more connected to him than I otherwise would have.

All this being said, there’s a part of me that feels somewhat disconnected from it; that all the decision-making I did in the conversation trees didn’t necessarily matter.  While Henry and Delilah have their own crosses to bear and work through, the larger story of Firewatch is about something else, and so at the end of the game I felt a little hollow.  (Maybe now I understand why everybody was so up in arms about the original ending to Mass Effect 3; you can feel a bit like the rug got pulled out from under you when 180+ hours worth of choice-making feels like it ultimately doesn’t matter all that much.)

The ending – such as it is – is bittersweet, and I suppose it’s the right way to end this sort of story.  But it also makes it somewhat difficult to return to, I think.

2.  I played about an hour’s worth of The Division beta on Xbox One last night, and I’m hoping to play it again on the PS4 tonight (just to compare/contrast, in terms of graphics).  My original impression of The Division upon its E3 reveal was that (a) I’m growing tired of this type of apocalyptic scenario, (b) it was very pretty and there’s simply no way it’s going to end up looking like that at retail, and (c) I don’t know if I need to play this.  But then, just a few weeks ago, it was revealed to be an RPG, and now that I’ve gotten my hands on it, it’s now become something I’m very, very interested in.

Making a Tom Clancys’ game an RPG is a very interesting decision, as far as these things go.  While all the Clancys’ games have had some very “game-y” aspects to them, there’s an additional level of abstraction that happens when you’re playing an RPG; leveling up, adding perks, comparing weapon pickups, etc.  You don’t necessarily notice this in the moment-to-moment gunplay (which, actually, reminded me a great deal of Mass Effect, come to think of it), but you can’t help but confront it after each battle when you’re running around looting corpses and lockboxes.  Any attempt at gritty realism and immersion kinda sails out the window when bright green columns of loot start glowing on the ground.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, mind you; if anything, I’m all for it.

The problem, though, is that the writing – at least in the beta’s abbreviated levels – is kinda terrible.  I don’t know if it’s Destiny-level terrible, but it’s certainly not Bioware, or even Bethesda.  Maybe terrible is too strong a word; basically, I didn’t really care why I was doing what I was doing, and I was content to simply follow the arrow to my destination.  The game also, sadly, features the classic Ubisoft trademark of having over-complicated controls; after an hour, I still couldn’t reliably get my grenades equipped and ready.  This is a third-person cover-based shooter, Ubisoft; most of us know how these games are supposed to feel in our hands, and it’s simply bizarre that Ubi feels compelled to arbitrarily change the formula to make it twice as complicated as it needs to be.

Still, I’m intrigued, if only because I’ve got nothing else on my gaming plate at the moment.  Tonight I test the PS4 version, and then I’ll run some sort of poll to figure out which of my gaming friends are picking it up, and on which system.  That said, I played what I played solo, and it wasn’t necessarily that lonely an experience; I think it’ll be more fun in co-op, obviously, but what isn’t?

3. I’ve finished a few books since my last post.

  • The Lost Time Accidents” – I loved this book, even if some of the more scientific stuff flew over my head.  Marvelously written, fantastically drawn characters, a pure pleasure to read from cover to cover.
  • Childhood’s End” – Apparently they’re making a TV show out of this?  Interesting, though I’ve got no desire to watch it.  I’ve actually read very little Arthur C. Clarke – until this one, I think I’d only read “Rendezvous With Rama“, and even though I’ve watched “2001” a bazillion times it’s not quite the same thing.  In any event – I can certainly understand why this is considered an all-time classic sci-fi book, and it’s remarkable to see how close Clarke was to imagining current technology from the 1950s.
  • Sudden Death” – OK, I haven’t technically finished this one, but it’s very short, and I’ll probably finish it by Monday.  I don’t have any idea how to describe this one, but it’s certainly very readable.

Hey, I managed to poop out 1000+ words!  Even if none of them have any thought behind them.  Have a wonderful weekend, everybody, and may you all get some sleep.

 

Good books! Good games! Good times!

1. I’m only about a third of the way into John Wray’s “The Lost Time Accidents“, but let me say this: if the rest of the book is just half as brilliant as what I’ve already been through, it’ll still be one of the best books I’ll have read in 2016.  I’m reluctant to discuss anything so far, if only because I clearly have so much more to get through, but MAN – this is a great, great book.  What a great feeling it is to be incredibly excited for something and then have it be just as good, if not better, than one had hoped.

2.  I played through the first day of Firewatch last night.  It’s quite something, I’ll say that; the prologue, a text-driven series of events that sets up your character’s motivation for taking the park ranger job, is far more emotionally heavy than I was prepared for.  I’m thinking I might wait for the much-needed frame-rate patch to land before I continue.  The frame-rate hitching isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, but given that the game is so beautiful and the atmosphere is so intoxicating, I’d rather experience it without being unnecessarily distracted.

3.  Also played through a little bit of Klaus, a very stylish 2D platformer that uses the PS4’s touch screen to great effect.  I can see that this one is going to break my brain in short order.

4.  Also, for some reason, I’ve been playing through the Batman: Arkham Knight Season of Infamy DLC, which is far better than any of the side-story stuff that had previously been released.  It’s short, but it’s well-written and visually striking, and there’s some pretty heavy-duty stuff that happens along the way.

I thought I’d had enough for a #5; I guess I didn’t.

2015 Resolutions and Anticipations

A Preface in Three Parts:

1:  I finished the Forza Horizon 2 Finale race last night.  I’ve apparently still got more to do, as the credits didn’t roll, but that was the big one.  If I were still keeping track of Achievements, and if I still had a category for “Favorite Achievement of the Year”, I suspect the 50 points I picked up for winning that 20-minute gauntlet would rank right up there with anything else I did this year.  After soaking in that victory for a bit, I then headed over to race in Storm Island, and WHOA, that shit is crazy.  Extreme weather, terrain, lighting and visibility – total madness, a complete 180 from the relatively calm and serene mainland campaign.  I’m not sure what the rest of the island is like, but that first race makes one hell of a first impression, and it shakes up the already-excellent formula enough to make it worth spending some more time in.

2:  I hemmed and hawed about whether or not I should buy it; I’d already sunk in a fair amount of time, and felt like I’d seen what I needed to see even if I only got halfway through…. but I also felt like I needed to finish it for real.  And so, in the end, Alien Isolation was on sale for $30 on PSN, and I picked it up, and it remembered my last save point from October.  So that’s something to look forward to.

3: I want to join the chorus in wishing Patrick Klepek the best of luck in his future endeavors.  His is a necessary, vital voice in this business, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.  On a purely personal level, he’s also single-handedly responsible for the biggest spike in traffic this site’s ever gotten (scroll down to #3), and so if nothing else I’m indebted to him for keeping this site visible, however marginally that visibility may be.


 

Pop Culture Consumption Resolutions for 2015:

  1. No more pre-ordering.  As you’ll see below, my “must-have” list of games for 2015 is relatively small, and given what we’ve been through in 2014 with nearly every significant AAA release bogged down by serious issues on release day, I don’t necessarily have any faith that these future releases will be released in an acceptable shape.  I can wait; I can rent.
  2. Along those lines, I’m going to try and beef up my commentary skills this year.  Maybe I’m being overly hard on myself, but most of my analysis is pretty superficial, and doesn’t necessarily get to the core of what’s actually going on.  Even this Cameron Kunzelman piece about how he doesn’t know how to describe Super Time Force Ultra still explains more about his experience playing it than I do on an average day.  I’m always aiming to be a better writer, but now I think I have a better idea of what “being a better writer” actually means (for the purposes of this blog, at least).
  3. I am going to stop.  playing.  Clicker Heroes.
  4. The backlogs are getting dealt with.  And if it means that I’m going to start keeping widgets on the sidebar to further shame myself into finishing stuff that needs finishing, then that’s what it means.
    • As far as my PC goes, I’m rapidly approaching the point where it’s not really capable of performing on par with my PS4 and XB1, but I still have a frighteningly large backlog to address on Steam that it can handle, and I’m gonna have to deal with that at some point.
    • And I still have a bunch of games on my PS4 that I haven’t finished – Shadow of Mordor and Far Cry 4 perhaps being the largest omissions, though there’s also Transistor, Valiant Hearts, and Oddworld New & Tasty.  (And also Sunset Overdrive on the XB1.)
    • Regarding my Kindle backlog – I’m cutting myself off and not buying any more books until I finish my to-read pile, which at this point is probably 20+ titles deep.  (I did end up buying the Your Face Tomorrow trilogy, but that’s it.)

I also further resolve to SPEAK UP and SPEAK OUT when stupid bullshit is happening out there in the world.  I can’t call myself an ally if I’m not doing anything to back that up.  I sincerely hope that 2015 provides less opportunities for shouting, but if it doesn’t, then I aim to shout as purposefully and effectively as I can.

Game Anticipations for 2015:  (with special assistance from this handy Game Informer page)
* denotes a game that I’m not 100% convinced will be coming out in 2015

THE MUST-HAVES

  • Batman: Arkham Knight
  • No Man’s Sky
  • Witcher 3
  • Uncharted 4 *
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider *
  • Firewatch *
  • Superhot
  • Below

THE RENTALS, AT THE VERY LEAST

  • PGA Tour Golf (EA’s first without Tiger, after a year-long hiatus)
  • Crackdown 3 *
  • Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture
  • Final Fantasy XV *
  • Mad Max *
  • Inside (from the makers of Limbo)

THE CURIOSITIES

  • The Order 1886
  • Bloodborne
  • Halo 5
  • Star Wars Battlefront
  • Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain
  • Silent Hills *

Here’s hoping we all have a safe and happy New Year’s, and may 2015 be everything that 2014 wasn’t.  Cheers.