Month in Review – May

Well that’s May out of the way. How are you all doing out there? Good? Hopefully good.

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Best performer: It Takes Two to Break Me

I’m going to be honest, May was a bit of a disappointment. Not just in terms of the blog – I got hit from all ends with things that really rocked the boat.

I guess I can start with something good: I have a kitty now. Back in April Miranda and I walked by a really friendly stray cat on one of our afternoon walks. She was so darn friendly that we thought she had to belong to one of the nearby houses and was just out roaming the neighbourhood. This was further reinforced when she followed us for a bit before returning to the bush she crawled out from under. Unfortunately we were wrong. Four weeks later we ran into her again in a similar spot, but this time she was incredibly beat up looking and had some kind of eye infection, so I adopted her.

Say hello to Chives.

I don’t know if I’ve ever talked about this here, but I have one “rule” that I try to live by: no regrets. There are so many opportunities I didn’t take in life because I doubted my abilities and thus I never put myself out there. A big part of my adult life has been resolving that problem. If I ever think I’ll have regrets about not doing something I act on it. This is what has motivated adopting Chives despite my lack of inclination to own a pet. She is settling in though and I’m…learning a lot about cats.

I don’t normally talk about work, but it needs to be mentioned because it had a direct impact on my blogging. Despite putting out eight articles, work severely hampered my ability to blog last month. In an absolute piss take I received not one, but TWO separate project intakes where the people who completed the intakes said it was a standard onboarding for one of our APIs while knowing full well that both cases required customized solutions. I got completely thrown under the bus on this shit and had to deal with the fallout from it all month.

Being completely side-lined and having a bunch of shit blow up in my face at work stung a lot and I took a huge mental health hit as a result. This, unfortunately, capped the amount of energy I had available outside of work and thus getting through the blogging work I wanted to complete in May was a struggle. It also didn’t help that, while a positive change, Chives was also a huge change and small ape brain think change bad.

The final factor that ruined May was my seasonal allergies coming in early. I have not had allergies this bad in years. I’m glad that the air conditioning is on in my building because my body has decided the air outside is toxic. Every single day for almost the entire month my nose and eyes have been under assault. Some days are obviously better than others, but the bad days are so bad that I can barely function. This added an additional layer of physical stress to the mental stress of May and just made the whole month a flaming dump truck filled with shit where my blogging wasn’t as on-point as I’d have liked.

Having said that, I did get almost everything I wanted to write done. One of the articles I conceptualized is being pushed to June because I needed more time to think on it, and another is probably never going to see the light of day. Articles getting pushed or scrapped is fairly normal though so don’t read into that too much.

Gaming

It Takes Two

The big one this month was finishing It Takes Two with Miranda. We had been playing it on date nights and collectively concluded it was really fun.

I think the thing I appreciated the most about It Takes Two was how it was actually designed around giving both players complimentary mechanics so there was a reason for you to work together. It sounds like a really obvious thing to do, but you’d be surprised how many multiplayer games forgo giving players distinct roles specifically so that people can play alone with generalist builds that excel at nothing.

To that end, It Takes Two throws so many new ideas at players that they’re not likely to get bored. Every thirty to sixty minutes you’re given something new to shake things up. It makes for a really engaging experience throughout, aside from one section where the abilities are a little underwhelming (you’ll know it when you see it).

Definitely consider checking this out if you have a co-op partner or significant other who is passively interested in games. A little bit of game knowledge is required to play it, but It Takes Two is forgiving enough that fair weather gamers should be able to play alongside their leet thunderchad partners and still have a good time.

Manifold Garden

I played this one on the Switch over the weekends when Miranda was engrossing herself in Subnautica: Below Zero. I can say with absolute certainty that I enjoyed watching Mir more than I enjoyed playing Manifold Garden.

Manifold Garden isn’t a bad game, per se, but I did find it incredibly frustrating. The controls feel as though they’re optimized around mouse and keyboard so playing it on Switch wasn’t ideal. In addition, it’s the kind of puzzle game where you spend more time trying to figure out what the puzzles is instead of solving it. I prefer puzzle games where solving the puzzle is the focus as those tend to have more fleshed out mechanics. I just don’t find the act of wandering around aimlessly searching for a puzzle as engaging as actually solving puzzles.

While you won’t get a recommendation from me for it, I could see how Manifold Garden is exactly what some people would want to play. Might be worth a look if what I described above strikes your fancy.

Monster Train

I had started the month playing some Slay the Spire, but quickly became bored of it. After two hundred hours of play time there is nothing left for Spire to show me, so I decided to install Monster Train again and had a lot of fun with it.

Over May I managed to double my time in Monster Train and I got to delve deeper into the updates that came out since I last played. There is now an additional hero unit in each of the game’s five factions. This provided a bunch of new strategies and synergies to delve into some of which are easier to pull off. Funnily enough, the game describes the secondary heroes as being more advanced to play, but in almost all cases I find them easier to play at higher difficulties than the primary hero. Weird how that works.

It was also over this stint of playtime that I was able to raise my covenant level (Monster Train’s granular difficult levels) to the maximum and win a couple of runs. This was something that I had thought would be impossible as, in Slay the Spire, there would be too much luck involved to reliably win when the game offered less margin for error. Turns out Monster Train offers a less swingy experience and racking up wins, even at higher difficulties, isn’t too taxing once you understand the game’s many innerworkings.

Consider that another positive recommendation for Monster Train which is now on Xbox alongside PC. If you liked Slay the Spire, seriously give this game a look. It’s really fun.

Thems Fightin’ Herds

This month I purchased an arcade stick and as such spent a lot of time playing Herds. My logic for getting the stick was that I improved a lot with drawing once I had the proper tools, so doing the same for fighters could help in the long term. I was mostly correct, but I think the biggest win is that the arcade stick doesn’t hurt my hands so I can play for extremely long periods of time instead of short bursts.

Unlike Fantasy Strike, Herds has almost all of the elements that modern fighting games have accumulated over the past thirty years. I made the decision to move to a game with a much higher execution barrier specifically because it would give me more to learn. Fantasy Strike, and many other games, were their most fun for me when I was learning new stuff all the time. Once I grasped and understood many fighting game fundamentals I didn’t find Fantasy Strike as fun to continue playing, so I decided it was time to see what else was out there.

The real question is: did Fantasy Strike finally allow me to understand other fighting games?

Answer: Yes.

I’m not very good at Herds, but I understand what I’m doing and why things are happening. This has helped immensely with learning it over the past several weeks. There are a lot of concepts that are new to me like high/low blocking, teching, and motion inputs, but these barriers have been fun to learn. Hopefully with a lot more practice I’ll actually be able to play Herds at some capacity similar to what I was doing in Fantasy Strike.

Art

I did one piece of art all month. It is fan art of Etna from Disgaea. I had intended to do more Disgaea stuff, but that didn’t end up panning out. I am still reasonably pleased with this though so there is that.

Community

As with every month in review, here are five posts from around the community that were published in May and deserve a look.

Athena | Ambigaming – Lost and Found: The Interesting Case of What GRIS Teaches Us in a Post-COVID-19 World

Meghan | MeghanPlaysGames – On Writing: Female Representation in Video Games

DanamesX | Tales From the Backlog – Name That Tune! – EXP Share #7

Kim | Later Levels – Touring England Through FMV Games

Ian | Adventure Rules – Nintendon’t Direct – Everything I Don’t Want to Hear at E3


As ever, thanks for reading my rambling thoughts. Hopefully my allergies calm down a bit in June so I’ll be able to focus in on and deliver a few of the fun ideas I had for posts. Until then, stay safe out there.

13 thoughts on “Month in Review – May

    1. Here’s hoping. At least my allergies should peter out by about the middle of the month so that’s something. Or at least…I hope they do…they came in earlier than usual so I’m hoping they leave earlier too.

      And you’re quite welcome. Good article so it was an easy shout-out. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re quite welcome!

      So do I. I also hope I figure her out more over the next little bit. She’s a tad too aggressive with my feet when she’s got pent up energy and wants to play.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Great looking Etna! I think you captured her true nature there.

    I’m sorry to hear about your troubles. Bullshit at work can absolutely take it out of you; I’ve felt too drained to write before for similar reasons. At least you have your cat around now to help out. Your “no regrets” rule is a good one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you.

      I’ve found it a very effective motivator. The other nice thing is that it has also made me less afraid of failure. A lot of the time I’m far more mean to myself than anyone else is in the event of a mistake and so almost all my experiences where I’ve put myself a little outside my comfort zone have been positive.

      I don’t know that it’d work for everyone, but it’s certainly helped me.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. Yeah I’ve been reading a lot of that, so I guess there is some comfort in knowing it’s not just me. Bit of a shame that others are having as much trouble as I’ve been having on that front.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Is that so? Well they’re a monthly feature here so there’ll be more to read in future. 😃

      I hope so as well. And for that matter, I hope everyone has a great June.

      Like

  2. Rather belated reply, but two things:
    1) I finally worked out why I wasn’t getting notified of your posts. My blogroll was set to show only the ‘general’ category and your RSS feed was uncategorised. God only knows how long that’s been the case for.

    2) Argggh- sorry to hear you’ve had a rough time of it at work. Not great — to say the least — that you had colleagues knowingly hide the bespoke nature of the projects from you. :/

    If I was to make a guess: Sales folk who had made commitments to the customer / end-users to close a deal despite knowing it wouldn’t likely be possible to make the timeframe they committed you to?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 1) Is that something I have the ability to change on my end or is that something you had to update?

      2) The push for it was partly legal related and partly contractual (aka we’ll have it in by X written stone and signed with blood). Still sucks massive ones that I didn’t know about the additional requirements and wasted a month of time running around like a chicken with my head cut off as I was working under the assumption that “no you don’t get anything special” when they are now getting something special.

      This is all…probably pretty normal shit for anyone who works in tech. I assume you’ve had to deal with your fair share of bullshitery too yeah?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 1) Entirely my end. I run a plugin called RSS-Aggregator to run the blogger-like live-blogroll on my sidebar. It’s a free plugin, but I bought a premium addition for categories on it quite some time ago for my first Blaugust event, so I could separately list mentors, participants and newbies.

        At some point I set it up to only show the ‘general’ category on the sidebar instead of just everything. I did that last April (for Blapril), but I’m about 95% sure I had categories for you specified at that time, so I have no idea when that stopped being the case or how.

        …Maybe that 95% is an XCOM number though and I had it wrong since April 2020. >.<

        2) Yes, unfortunately. I'm not a coder, but I am a product manager. I've been a product owner as well for different squads, but I'm a chapter lead at the moment. Back when I worked on core Telco products, I saw a lot of this:
        "We've signed a big deal for an important customer! Yay us!"
        'What did you promise them? Can we actually do it?'
        "I dunno! But you have until to make it possible!”

        One particularly memorable time, it was for an MNVO (Mobile Network Virtual Operator, essentially wholesale their connectivity from us but then act as retailer to their own customers). And the capabilities promised were… extensive. I think the last of our contractual obligations were met something like 2 years past the original promised date. It was bad.

        Now, I work more in an emerging tech space (a lot of IoT products) — and the problems are still out of sales, but different.

        “We sold to a customer! Yay us!”
        ‘Who? What? Have we onboarded them as a partner? Did they pass the security and privacy assessments? How are we billing it? Who’s supporting it?’
        “KBYE! Off to sell the next unproductised thing!”

        I at least get it here, product development for a final ready to go reusable solution is slowww. We still have to navigate all the machinery of a big corporate to get them ready but their targets don’t account for us.

        *sigh*

        Liked by 1 person

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