aesmael: (friendly)
 Of course I ended up going to bed shortly after finishing that last journal entry without having posted it anywhere. A lag time of at least a day seems currently endemic. Did end up staying home. Even managed to get docted - got some advice (rest, lots of fluids, don't fill this antibiotic prescription unless certain conditions are met), and a note of incapacity to work for today and tomorrow.

Am feeling a bit better. Feeling like resting today and tomorrow will give me a good chance of not over-exerting myself on Wednesday, which is normally only a light day at work anyway. Feeling like I've been sick a lot this year, or much more than is usual for me. Worried this is a foreboding sign and hoping it not to be.

But for tonight I think I can do some simple things. Revise liner notes maybe, or back up files from this computer, or write some character speeches for Pathfinder, or make yet another attempt at finishing the frequently interrupted Scrivener tutorial.

Right now I'm watching this video of a talk on interactive fiction by Emily Short which is inspiring the desire to add yet another layer to my never-quite-started THC project. Television series, Pathfinder module, ... text adventure?  That one at least we shan't be starting tonight. Laptop is in big need of replacing and I've been telling myself not to try any IF stuff until after that's taken care. Not because interactive fiction is so demanding on the hardware (is it?) but to keep myself from taking on too much at once and then feeling like a failure when that inevitably collapses on me.

aesmael: (sexy)
 Sick today and yesterday. Not much energy for doing or thinking. Currently looking like I'll have to take tomorrow off work and maybe more but we shall see how it turns out.
Always, always. "We shall see".
Haven't made any project progress since that last post but at least I can try and do some journalling here. This isn't one of the goals I put on those cards but I would like to make this into a habit. Wanted to make those other activities into habits too, which is why it's especially annoying to come down with a cold or whatever and get knocked out of being able to focus.
Did get to play a little bit of go today and a little bit of reading, so that was good. And yesterday some exciting discussion about a roguelike game idea, which it will probably take me years before I'm able to do anything like putting together. But a goal's a goal right?
And now I better get to bed because either I need to be up earlier for work in the morning or I'm sick and need lots of rest.
aesmael: (tricicat)
 Yesterday I bought a packet of index cards to write projects on. The idea is that when I have some free time, I look through those cards and pick out something appealing to work on, including leisure activities like reading a book. Often I have difficulty deciding what to do, or remembering what I can do, and I'm hoping this will help me to do more things I want to do.
Today's big winner is cleaning up my living space. I've cleared out a path on the floor and pulled out some clothes I don't wear and other items to dispose of (for example: boxes things were shipped or purchased in). Feels like an accomplishment but also depression or something like it is nipping at my shadows, so it is difficult not to feel also hollow.
Another project which has been catching my attention lately is the cataloguing of my music collection and transcribing the liner notes, so that when I travel I can still have that information with me. It also gives me a push to actually read those and maybe learn something from them. Currently I have a suite of edits pending on Musicbrainz for one of the albums early on - your hundred best Piano Tunes IV - and while I'm waiting for those edits to go through I've jumped ahead a few to where the liner notes project has been laying fallow. That's partway through transcibing the booklet for The Beatles Anthology 1, the first really substantial booklet from my collection. Only one other has had more than a page of information with it, and that's the aforementioned album of piano music. Now I'm reading through the Beatles booklet to try and understand the formatting decisions of past-me, and whether I endorse them.
I had hoped to have the Pathfinder game started by the 23rd, which corresponds to the in-game date on which the Rise of the Runelords campaign begins, but that is looking less likely. Some players have dropped out and I haven't been able to get character sheets from any of the others. Telling myself not to worry about that because if it does work and we can play, that will be worth more than any arbitrary deadline or calendar synchronicity. And I should work at getting more encounters and NPCs prepared in advance too. For now, looking like 2 or 3 players.
aesmael: (pangolin-me)
=== Ambiguity from 2017-07-13 ===

One of those days where I have a shift at the library starting from 17:00, so the whole day takes place in its shadow. Nonetheless I managed to achieve many of the goals I'd set for myself today. Mostly, preparation for that Pathfinder game I keep talking about.

First of all, how easily I can get maps or other handout type pictures from the adventure PDFs. Turns out to be quite easy - just about as simple as right click -> save image. Editing in layers to do some simple 'fog of war' effect seems rather straightforward in GNU Image Manipulation Program so it should be fairly quick to unveil and reupload as the players explore new areas of the dungeon or other space.

Have not solved: anything for creature tokens or player avatars, which may need an adjustment of map scale to make those legible and practical.

Meanwhile at work feeling lazy, too unfocused and distracted. Wondering whether I can maintain focus in my life overall - do work at work, do fun and personal project stuff at home. This is a constant refrain and little likely to come of it, but we keep trying. And keep on feeling like cutting down on social media will open space for "actually doing" things. But it is so useful for the little gaps with nothing else and anyway... a sigh.
aesmael: (pangoself)

=== Monday ===

Maybe yesterday's post should have been split in two, to separate out the game talk from the workplace whining. In follow-up to that, it seems the person I was filling in for on Saturday is currently hospitalised. I won't write out my speculations as to why, but I hope she will soon be in good health.

Latest surly rescue-cat is being sick at the moment. Has apparently been vomiting quite a bit. Checking on occasionally for status but mostly when I'm around is just sleeping and keeping to self. Cat's been named Lilly by family (I tend to say Lillith) and hopefully will feel better soon. And not pass on whatever it is to the other cats, who at least are still avoiding em.

Trying to redirect my energy more into doing what I want (projects and fun activities) and journalling, and less into social media. It's difficult. There is a lot of inertial habit to overcome and the blank moments. Especially the gaps between, when there just isn't enough time for me to work on anything at all big.

=== Sunday ===

This is about the time of night where I start to berate myself for wasting the day and my life. I should remember that my goal for the day was to do something creative, and last night I defined playing + streaming Zork as counting for that purpose. And I managed to do that! - [the recording can be found here """"]. Plus I made a slightly fancy dinner. Anything more complicated than microwaving or sandwich feels like victory there. And I'm writing this, and I played some Go,

So, today has been a good day? Good company and good times with, and accomplished some things that are goals, even if small. Reminding myself of this helps to feel better.

aesmael: (nervous)

Note: The following was typed on 2017-06-15

For a long while I've been kicking around the idea of running a Star Wars sequel role-playing campaign using the Pathfinder ruleset and based on a story idea by Ami. Naturally I'd been referring to it as Starfinder until Paizo went and announced a game of that same name which at least should make a more convenient platform for actually playing it out.

And especially lately I've been on enough of an RPG kick to take steps toward actually getting a group together and playing a game. Although not having really played a role-playing game before I'm wanting to try running some published adventures before diving into writing my own story-based campaign.

But I do have some pages of ideas for structuring that Star Wars game over a few seasons of play. And even if intending to use the Starfinder rules to run it means I can't really fully write up adventures for it until those rules are published and available for play, that doesn't mean I can't expand on those notes and craft a skeleton of where it could go and what they might do, who they might meet. In fact I think I ought to do so.

That will make something to work on. And meanwhile I can read up on advice for running and constructing RPG campaigns, and continue trying to organise that group for the Pathfinder Rise of the Runelords adventure path. Mostly want to have fun, and these sorts of games are something I've been interested in most of my life.

aesmael: (haircut)

Finally answered the Malheurs' question about podcasts we listen to ('finally' - it was only yesterday morning). Left a few off because didn't want to flood, though. Mainly SF Crossing The Gulf, science news series like the Nature magazine podcast, and the story magazines like Escape Pod and Podcastle. And some I just can't recommend like Skeptic's Guide to the Universe partly for the often confrontational tone (and associated ablism) but especially what stands out is one of the host's periodic parodies of Asian accents.So, nope, however much I may enjoy I can't recommend at least pre-2008 version of the show.

Got the day off, so all that prospect of wide open day to fill and be diligent in. But we never manage that in the actuality. It's a nice dream.

Not been able to exercise in a while because of my leg, but that's healed now and was surprised at how easily the routine went this morning. First thought on the treadmill was that I really need to get a sports bra as the bounce was quite unpleasant. And then spiralling a bit of self-hate because it seems no one in the country makes sports bras sized for women as large as me with such small breasts. Going to have to wait for the regular bra I ordered to arrive and see how well that fits. And then most likely follow Ami's advice of getting a smaller size and an extender for the strap.

Hope that works. Been waiting on getting a bra sorted so I can fix up the rest of my wardrobe for nearly half a year now.

Last night on the drive home listening to Science Friday episode from 2015-02-06 they covered the final instalment of the show's bookclub reading The Lost City of Z. They'd been discussing that the past few episodes, a retracing of a British explorer who long ago went missing in the Amazon searching for a lost city. This had me wondering if and how such tropes as explorer's clubs and celebrity explorers might be used in RPGs, and whether this could be done in a non-colonialist way (the short answer I came to is probably no, and on my head be it if I insist on including them anyway). Ideas such as cross-planar exploration, seeking out unknown worlds and planar regions for establishing contact and trade or relations with, and possibly the world of narrative focus being but newly created and consequently not in a position to exert force outward. But that latter is less of a help than the details of motives in seeking outward and celebrating news brought back.

Alternatively or perhaps also, having characters be of non-European-derived societies, exploring into the ruins of a lost European-style society. Good excuse for lots of castle dungeons and monster-infested ruined townships. Could be explained as plague-depopulated (or some other catastrophe), much as what actually happened in the Americas and Australia when European settlers arrived (except of course no real monsters), although what I'd been thinking in that idea was not so much to make that parallel as more Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt to make a conveniently depopulated Euro-fantasyland. And the fact that it does make a parallel to the real world creates problems in using such an idea, because there is an implicit association that if such a depopulated land is suitable for guilt-free exploration and ruin-romps, then it must have been similarly okay for Europeans to go through Australia and those Americas after disease had drastically reduced the populations and ability to sustain existing societies there.

As was pointed out in the much more interesting (and far too short) following segment in which they had as guest an archaeologist to talk about actual Amazonian ruins and how they were laid out in a style of city distinct from any that I had been aware of.

Getting to the point where soon new stereo in car will hopefully mean can start over the list ordering and go into the big and hopefully final catch-up project. Especially since recent investigations and external developments will make that more possible than before.

Something on the drive home reminded me of my grandmother and, as ever, I wanted to tear my throat out so I wouldn't have to deal with it. I think I thought of aiming for a collision again but of course I won't, I wouldn't. But how am I supposed to make sense of her being gone? I wish I could cry, for her, for my cousin. Even for Terry Pratchett whose words meant so much to me growing up (she once bought me one of his books as a child and I don't think she ever knew how much I loved that book). But I can never seem to grieve properly. There is always something taking precedence - maintaining a good face at work; school; getting home without killing myself. I fear that someday I will have time to grieve and the window will have passed, I will not feel it any more or need it.

Again and again and again.

Today is always wasted.

I watched some things. Part 3 of the Doctor Who serial Marco Polo, I think. Did not pay a lot of attention to it or follow what was happening, so what was the point in watching that again when I could have been doing something useful? Episode 38 of Galaxy Express 999, of which I wanted to say something about how repetitive that show is but this time it actually did something a bit different, showing a bit more of the workings of the interstellar railway line. Some episode of Scott & Bailey in the background, which I suppose I keep up more by inertia than anything else. I wish I had the time and the will and the focus to - if I am going to watch something - actually watch it and pay attention and think about it. I pressure myself too much to get through things and so cannot appreciate them.

School is stress. I am sure I am going to fail. I am always sure, and always sure that this time I really am. Of course last time, over the summer, I actually did, which means I am on academic probation and definitely have to pass this class to escape penalty. And I am doing so badly with it. I very much need to focus and not be social, to push through being tired when not at work. Today I tried to get progress on my assignment, the last one that will determine my grade, and mostly ended up wrestling with bibliographic tools before giving up and doing it the old-fashioned way. Insofar as using style settings in a modern office suite can be considered old-fashioned.

But at least I have done something. I have made some progress on the readings and entered some information into the document, so that is technically progress. I need to make this into my life somehow if I am to succeed, but I hate it already and thoroughly.

Been leaving lots of journal entries unpublished of recent, as the day escapes me. I wonder if I will ever publish them?

aesmael: (sudden sailor)

I wanted to keep more of a diary again. Guess my first attempt at making a post of this getting accidentally deleted is as good an excuse as any. That's what happens when you have a part-written post in a browser window and then reboot the computer.

Earlier in the week I finally got an ultrasound for my wrist. Unfortunately no sign showed of what is causing the pain I have been in experiencing there. People seem to be treating that as good news which puzzles me - if there'd been an affirmative discovery of a problem, couldn't I have got something done about it? Now I'm in the position of waiting another month with painkillers and hoping it goes away before I can get a referral to a rheumatoid specialist for further investigation.Has been feeling a bit better the past couple of days, which I suspect is due more to having had several days off work than to taking extra care with my posture and typing since if I were to say I managed that half the time I'd be being generous. Can't hurt though, I hope.

[at this time the author takes a break for approximately 4 days or more]

I suppose I don't know what else to say. So far as resolutions go - that tradition of the new year - I suppose what I want to do is to occupy myself sufficiently with personal projects and activities to spend far less time haunting social media. Of course there's school, but I would like to, to have myself together enough to get writing again sometimes too. And games, and reading... I've been trying to persuade a book club into existence and also have been very enthusiastic of late about role-playing games. Aspiring to run and perhaps even to play in some this year.

Been focusing on Pathfinder first with vague plans to try running some practice adventures and hopefully cobble together a Star Wars themed campaign (Starfinder) based on an authentic [personal profile] ami_angelwings  idea. But first I'm trying to read up a lot on advice for running games well so that I can hopefully do a good job and help everyone involved have fun.

Right now, right next, I need to work hard at school. I worry I can't manage both school and much in the way of hobbies. Every attempt I make to manage my time well so far ends in weeks of anxious fretting and bursts of panicked labour. But I keep hoping and I keep trying. I suppose there is not anything else I can do.

On which note I better actually be doing that schoolwork now.

[started this January 1st, a few days later than I wanted to, and finished writing it yesterday. I do not want to abandon social media so much as I want to fill my life with enough satisfying industrious pleasure that I find myself less dependent on and habituated to it.]

aesmael: (tricicat)
Overheard PA announcement from nearby primary school. Distortion made it sound like GLaDOS. Frightening thought.
aesmael: (writing things down)
Yesterday was a busy sort of day. In the morning I finally made and attended a dental appointment I had been putting off for most of the year (he wanted to remove my wisdom teeth, but first I was travelling and then I felt overwhelmed by the combination of school and work). Had check-up, revealing no further decay, which pleased me, and a fresh referral for getting my jaw x-rayed to find out what extractions may need to be performed.

Also visited the local shops and picked up ingredients. Some of which I used that evening to make a tasty modified Manhattan Crab Chowder (née Clam) and some of which I hope to use later this week (tomorrow, ideally) to make Strawberry Bread, and Bream with Horseradish and Apple Topping. I still need to secure the bream.

Later in the evening, at my sister's urging, I played Skyrim for a couple of hours. That was a bit exhausting. I created an orc character with the aim of pushing for heavy armour martial sorts of actions, but seem doomed to playing a sneaky sort of character as my natural inclinations draw me to scouting and investigating.
aesmael: (probably quantum)
Today was perhaps a good day, although not what I anticipated. I ended up spending about three hours playing games in multiplayer which I had not planned. First, a while playing Alien Swarm again with Ami and Grace, the latter of whom I have rather missed (I do not miss Ami because I have daily contact with her still, which is good). That started out as a test effort to get a three-player game of Secret of Mana going, but this seems to be an unattainable goal. Instead, we defaulted to freely available space marine squad shooting up swarms of aggressive alien bug-things.

It was wonderful to get to hang out and laugh and have fun with friends again. I missed it a lot and hope I will be able to make more time in my life for this, that more opportunities for repeating the experience will be available.

Later, since we can't get a third player, Ami and I started our Secret of Mana game over again with the new circumstances in mind. Also fun times, and conveniently allowing me to see how the plot began instead of joining it partway through like I had last time (there was not much plot).

In betweentimes I worked some more on the database of books and stories I have read that I have been building for ill-defined and scarcely considered reasons. But at least I am potentially learning new skills in the process.

Yesterday was also not what I expected. I woke in the morning to find Avast had reported a virus in its scanning and recommended a further scan at boot. I let it go ahead with that, forgetting how long those take, and was consequently without my computer for 7 hours. This meant conversations had to be carried out via the far less comfortable medium of my phone. I ended up planning out some meals for - hopefully - the next week, and also started rereading through Berserk to pass the time. Currently am at Volume 3 and aim to stop there for a while. I'm aiming to be a bit more flexible in my reading in the future, but that is not something I can dive right into, and I have "things to do" meanwhile.

Losing such a chunk of November first also put a damper on any aspirations I may have had to participate in NaNoWriMo, although I'd not entertained any idea of actually attaining 50,000 words anyway. I still might try and manage a burst of writing, which I'd like to do regardless of the month.


2014-09-21 12:56
aesmael: (probably quantum)

I should post more here... I should have more to post anywhere. But mostly it would just be repetitious grumbling that I feel too tired and worn down to make proper posts any more.

OK! So here's a thing. At the moment I have two major assignments due on 2014-10-07, so I'm trying to devote a week to each of them and have some time left over to do whatever polishing is needed.

Took a walk this morning, which I've been trying to do whenever I don't have work or some morning outing. I always feel better after, plus it gives me an excuse to catch up on podcasts. At the moment I'm listening to episodes of The Philosopher's Zone, Planetary Radio, and Escape Pod from 2005. Those also give me an excuse to make lists and put things in order which is often a soothing activity.

I've effectively abandoned the Sunday Story Ratings project on account of being so intermittent and behind on it that it was becoming a hopeless amount of work. Instead I'm trying to keep a sort of reading journal, meaning I just post whatever I think about what I'm reading on bloggier sites. Mostly a lot of short stories at the moment, so when I'm done with those I'd like to compile an index of my thoughts on each story and write something about what I thought of the book overall (mostly, when I finish remembering to cross-post to here the entries I originally made in July and August).

A while back I lost all the music I had on an external hard drive. I still had a back-up elsewhere, or the rest was readily and freely re-downloadable. Mostly what I had lost was the effort I put into cataloguing and organising the collection. I have recently been trying to listen to (to make sure it is of good quality and does not need re-ripping) and catalogue an album or folder of music each day. During assignment crunch times I just listen to a whole succession of them and worry about the cataloguing later.

Most recently I have been trying to learn how to database. This takes the form of putting together a database of stories I have read since I started reading books again in 2011; it also suits my organisational urges to let me track details like stories published in multiple locations or how many I have read by particular authors, and so forth.

Trying to learn how to play Go again, now that I believe I can handle losing better.

These are all things that I don't find lending themselves easily to little on-going posts. But mostly I'm just finding myself tired between work and school.

aesmael: (just people)

Ascii Sector 1.2

Making my way to the ship I take off (and forget to take a screenshot) and fumble extensively with the controls until slowly some understanding of nav-points, autopilot and jump gates is gained.

First, to the wrong nav-point, and then since the destination for this mission was no longer showing on the map like it had been last session - cut off at the bottom - tabbing through other nav-points until one offered 'jump to Nexus Prime'. That system at least showed what looked like a path to potentially get nearer the target system.


Read more for system-hopping confusion )


aesmael: (haircut)

Successfully assembled and tested my first map for Doom over a couple of nights. It isn't pretty, nor would I claim it to be especially good in other ways, but it exists and that is its own kind of triumph.

It's got a lift (so many texturing mistakes before I got it okay), a door (had to set aside the map after about an hour of failing to get that right and re-check a tutorial), monsters, a key, and a remote-activated key door. Ended up being surprisingly difficult but consistently beatable for me with keyboard + touchpad, which is also a small lesson in how to balance encounters.

Am quite satisfied. Will probably make a go at building a more serious practice map in a day or so and see how that goes.

Originally published at a denizen's entertainment. You can comment here or there.

The Angband Version 4.0-dev title screen

Angband V4
Was going to skip this one the first time around, but changed my mind.

V4 is a fork of Angband by the devteam of Angband themselves. Over the years they've copped a lot of flack from the player community for various changes they've introduced to Angband - many seem to believe that Angband is and ought to be an essentially complete game, which should be receiving maintenance and bugfixing, rather than development. Or disagreements about the pace or style of changes introduced.

The idea behind V4 is that in this branch the devs can trial more radical changes which, once they are polished and perhaps come to be well-regarded, might get ported to the main game, 'vanilla' Angband (also known as V (this terminology greatly pre-dates V4 itself)).

One change from Angband that I was playing previously (but which is in the latest official releases also), is the inclusion of a high quality tileset provided by Shockbolt as the default presentation, rather than ASCII. Wanting to surprise people with that is one reason I intended to skip V4 for the time being, before coming to what passes for my senses.

There is a handy text file available from the new game menu which explains the main changes in V4 from Vanilla Angband, most of which boil down to object generation: As best I can tell, objects have been streamlined so that there are now the basic object types and then variations magical or otherwise are applied to these as modifiers. E.g. there are no longer the objects 'fur cloak, mithril plate, blade of chaos'. Instead there are cloaks, plate armours and swords which might be generated with the corresponding affixes and thus possess the appropriately modified properties. This applies all the way from the very mundane items to the very powerful, but not to artifacts, which are the same as ever. More or less.

Item identification has been adjusted so that player characters, once they learn about properties on a particular item, will recognise those same properties on other items without having to go through the identification rigamarole again. Referred to as 'rune based' ID.

Combat revisions have been made in an attempt to force decisions to be more interesting - players now have 'finesse' and 'prowess' skills, and weapons have 'balance' and 'heft' qualities, which work best with particular combinations of these skills. Monsters now have an 'evasion' rating which affects how well they evade attacks, and instead of its former role in evasion, monster armour now affects how much damage a monster will absorb from hits.

Nope, can't describe those any better. Haven't played it yet. Let's find out!

Starting stats of Ezelin the female hobbit mage

Looks like our first victim will be a female hobbit mage, named Ezelin. All details randomly selected.

Ezelin in town. Visible stores are, from upper right running clockwise, General Store, Armoury, Temple, Magic Store

In the town, Ezelin buys a cloak from the general store before heading down into Angband. It may be foolhardy, but it seems easier to learn item changes by exploring instead of shopping. Apart from her new cloak, Ezelin carries only a book of basic magic spells, three rations of food, a scroll of Word of Recall, three wooden torches, and a dagger.

Level 1: This seems a quiet, peaceful place.

On entering the first level, Ezelin feels it to be a "quiet, peaceful place".

Soon after, she comes to feel "there are only scraps of junk here".

Here we learn that as an incentive to exploration, level feelings have been split. Rather than appearing all at once when you enter a new level, we first get a sense of how dangerous the level is, and only after exploring for a bit do you get the part of the feeling for how valuable the treasure is.

The first life Ezelin encounters in Angband is a white icky thing. It sleeps in the corner of a room and, seeing no need to disturb it, Ezelin leaves it be. The second is a grey mushroom patch. Unsure in the dim torchlight exactly how close her path comes by, Ezelin accidentally steps beside it.

The grey mushrooms release spores reflexively, confusing Ezelin. She attempts to retrace her steps, but in her confusion walks into a wall instead. The grey mushroom patch continues releasing its spores. Ezelin almost immediately dies from the toxic effect they have on her body.

A grey mushroom patch releases spores at Ezelin; she promptly dies.

Following her death, Ezelin becomes further confused by the mushroom's spores.

 she found no gold but what she started with, gained no experience, and was killed on the first level if the dungeon by a grey mushroom patch

Hobbit mages. They're vastly more fragile than Half-Troll Priests. Although there has been a concerted effort to make the game harder since version 3.2.0, I don't think that had anything to do with Ezelin's untimely end. Possibly that the radius of torchlight has been reduced, leading to her fatal misstep.

aesmael: (tricicat)

Originally published at a denizen's entertainment. You can comment here or there.

After much delay, I finally bought myself my promised post-semester reward in the form of first-person puzzle game Portal 2, during the holiday sales on Steam. Also bought a copy of that and the first Portal as gifts for Ami.

So those have been most of what I have been playing for the past few weeks. I played through the first Portal game a couple of times previously after finally getting hold of it. Since then, I've been unable to play it since 2009 on account of running Ubuntu for that laptop period. Now that I have a Windows computer again, Valve has released a version of Steam for Linux so I would have been able to play Portal again anyway, probably.

Sooo. I finished Portal again, taking rather more time than it ought to take, on account of trying to get some of the achievements on offer for it. Mainly the ones for detaching cameras from the walls and finding and taking radios to discoverable locations. I wanted to try and finish all the advanced test chambers before playing the sequel which, as the name suggests, are versions of the puzzles from the main game which have been made more difficult. But, because they are indeed much more difficult, by the time I got up to the last I realised it would take possibly quite a long time. And I wanted to finish the single-player campaign in Portal 2 prior to playing the co-op mode with Ami, so for now Advanced Testchamber 18 remains undefeated by me.

First thing I noticed about Portal 2 is how much improved the graphics are. And, the first Portal was still one of the most recent and graphically advanced games I had played prior to its sequel, so this was very impressive to me. Also helped that the first environments you go through are also the beginning of the original Portal game, so you get to see directly how much the look of the game has been improved.

Overall it feels like a lot of work has been done and lessons learned in the meanwhile to making games more playable and more fun. The tumbling as Chell emerges from portals in various origins has been taken out, making it vastly easier to navigate situations where the player needs to re-position portals on the fly. The display has also been cleaned up a lot and even though I already knew the controls from the previous game, the on-screen guide to the controls at the beginning was still nice to look at. Audio cues have been added for interaction with the various puzzle pieces (the different gels, at least) which greatly simplifies interacting with them and knowing when you are under the effect of their various properties. I might be mistaken or misremembering things too, but I think using objects has been simplified also.

There was a lot more story and several more characters than in the first game. Story was a lot of fun, very amusingly driven by the character interactions, although the player is more of a bystander since the player character Chell is mute throughout the game and she acts only through the game being played. I ended up lingering a lot in various parts of the game just because it was fun to hear the various characters monologuing and I wanted to find out what else they might say.

As much fun as the story is for Portal 2 in itself, I was disappointed a bit by it in relation to the previous game. Mainly, that Portal 2 takes the events of the previous game at face value, whereas I had thought a less literal interpretation made better sense of events. But now that interpretation has been canned, which in my eyes diminishes GLaDOS and the entire scenario a bit. Also a little disappointed that where the first game had a 99% female cast, all but one of the new additions are male.

The first Portal game was already pretty good at it, but I think the designers have learned a lot about teaching players how to play as they play, getting skills learned, developed and applied. I am looking forward to playing through with the developer commentary on.

Although, maybe because of that, I was also disappointed the puzzles weren't harder. There were a few different 'testing track' sequences in the game, at the end of which some dramatic event would happen and you would be forced to begin a new track designed by a different character, and using new skills. I tended to only feel much engaged with the puzzle-solving toward the end of each of these, and then it was over too quickly. Maybe the advanced versions of the chambers will be more interesting, or maybe I was too distracted at the time to really appreciate the puzzles.

Probably, going to play through both games again in the relatively near future. Plus there are still the co-operative maps to try, and the Perpetual Testing Initiative, which makes for easy access to user-created maps. Am looking forward to those.

Originally published at a denizen's entertainment. You can comment here or there.

On recommendation from various sources I purchased a copy of Guild Wars 2, a recently released MMORPG ( One of my partners had been playing and speaking enthusiastically of it for a few weeks, and I came across a rather glowing review from a source I tend to trust (local game review television show, with roots in a magazine I subscribed to when younger). Plus, it had the advantage of not requiring an ongoing subscription fee to play.

Previously I had only played World of Warcraft for a while, eventually quitting when the size of the update and installation downloads exceeded the size of the household's monthly data limit. So, I don't have much to compare Guild Wars 2 against, but the developers seem to have gone out of their way to fix all the interface annoyances and inconveniences that plagued World of Warcraft. The kind of thing which, by not having, causes one to realise how burdensome its existence had been.

Apart from interface stuff like being able to autosell junk and automating depositing useful items in the player's various storage locations without having to trek all the way to those physical locations every time - apart from that, it is also a lot of fun to run around in the game world and play.

Also like that one does not have to formally accept quests (although one can in dialogue agree to them), but for the most part it is structured that events are going on in the surrounding game world, and one can participate or not, and be awarded automatically for participation based on one's actions, without having to formally claim completion (or attempting, if it failed).

Well, I've only been playing intermittently, and I haven't developed my so far single character very well or far, but it has been plenty of fun. And not having a subscription fee means I don't have to fret about wasting money if I don't pick it up especially often (it is not uncommon for me not to let myself have much gaming time at all for months at a stretch - the last few months have been unusually game-heavy for me).

Like World of Warcraft, I do find Guild Wars 2 wearingly intense if playing with someone else. My normal pace in games is quite leisurely, with many pauses, but when I am with another player I feel obligated to push a bit harder, to keep up with em and to keep things interesting.

Probably have more to say on this after I have played more. But so far it is nifty getting to run around helping people out. Especially since that was the core of my character concept (a useful one for a game like this). I didn't actually expect it to be so fantasy; for some reason I thought the game would be more science fiction. No disappointment tho.

Originally published at a denizen's entertainment. You can comment here or there.

Have been playing some other games of recent also. First of all, been playing through Doom 64 again courtesy of the Doom 64 Ex port - I don't think my N64 is working any more. Started out as an attempt to find all the secrets I've missed on previous playthroughs (not many) and ended up making a rule for myself that I could only make at most one attempt on a map each day, which has been fun. Mostly a string of easy victories, with occasional interludes of particular maps that take me as much as half a week to beat. I do wish I had been taking notes as I played, as I had what I thought were worthwhile things to say about several of them, but I no longer recall the details. Maybe next time.

At the moment I am working through the penultimate map of the story, "No Escape". That one starts with a cyberdemon marching around an obstacle course of a courtyard, littered with nightmare imps and with mancubuses in high positions to keep you on your toes. There is a cage with another couple of cyberdemons (which I accidentally unlocked early on my last attempt) and true to its title the level only ends when they are both defeated.

A few weeks ago I bought a PS3 to act as a Blu-Ray player, since it can be frustrating trying to source DVDs that will play in Australia and Blu-Ray region locking is much more lenient. I didn't buy any games for it because I am mostly disinterested in Playstation games, but since my sister's boyfriend also has one, she has borrowed games from him whenever she is staying here, and consequently I have been occasionally playing Assassin's Creed.

Fun game, although I found the controls a bit difficult to adjust to. Definitely enjoy getting to clamber over everything and the combat can be fun if timed right. But it also feels like rather a simple sort of game. Despite all the running through and over cities you do, there is no interacting with doors of any kind - something is either an open passageway, or you can't get in there. The sneaking is also mostly a matter of blending with crowds rather than remaining unseen (admittedly I have a history of not being good with that), and weird decisions were made about what is considered suspicious or unsuspicious actions, mostly via use of the 'blend' button.

Riding a horse, for example, even slowly, will cause soldiers to attack you unless you are holding down 'blend'. Likewise, when you rescue a citizen from harassment by guards (by killing all the guards in the area), any guards who walk into the area where the bodies lie will immediately attack you unless you are holding down 'blend' (which means the player character lowers his head and raises his hands in a prayer posture), in which case they will leave you alone. In one case, a character is killed after the player character has interrogated in a cutscene; subsequent to this I got a bit lost in the city and walked back into that alley behind a guard, who upon spotting the body immediately turned around and attacked me. Now, while 'I' had killed the guy, this guard had no way of knowing that, so it felt weird to be attacked in the street for it.

Death animations for characters who have been killed can be quite disturbing, with writhing and gurgling for a while after they have been stabbed. I've been considering quitting the game on account of this graphic violence; the more closely gameplay resembles murdering humans, the less comfortable I am with it. The appeal of a game like this for me is more in the puzzle aspects, environment and skill mastery, and the story. Decision on that still pending, but I expect I will keep playing. Still want to see what happens next, etc.

Originally published at a denizen's entertainment. You can comment here or there.

Level 36: This place looks uninteresting

In the circle of Marash's light is a crow and a giant white ant. Beyond this she is aware of a cloud giant to her northeast, and further in that direction are a mature white dragon and a werewolf

Marash's first action is, of course, to detect evil in her new surroundings. She finds a werewolf, a mature white dragon, and a cloud giant (all asleep), as well as a giant white ant and a crow (not evil, but near enough to be visible).

The crow attacks Marash, but misses

The ant and the bat are from so near the surface, and Marash has grown so powerful herself, she can almost ignore them for now. Praying for trap detection and a map of the area reveal something troubling, however - that cloud giant is near by to the only door out of here. If she is to walk, Marash will have to pass close by it to leave.

Perhaps now is a good time to discover exactly how dangerous cloud giants are. One quick slash of her main gauche disposes of the pesky crow.

Unwisely, maybe, she calls upon the Phial of Galadriel to illuminate, and determine at once if there is anything she desires from this room.

Nothing, except some stairs leading deeper which she wishes not to take just yet. She creeps along to the door, harried by the ant, and the giant does not stir.

Another crow greets her in the doorway and though she misses her first strike it goes down quickly. She destroys the ant, also, in order to clear the doorway so she can close it behind her.

As she heads south down the corridor, she finds herself growing hungry again. A quick prayer takes care of that.

Just a couple more steps down and she hears the door opening behind her. The cloud giant has woken and now is in pursuit. There is no clear shot for her from where she stands, with her rods, and taking a step back puts it out of sight, so Marash continues along until the giant begins to catch up with her.

First fire, which hits fine, then lightning, which it resists. Perhaps to be expected, in retrospect. She fumbles her rod of drain life, and the giant hurls a boulder at her.

On her second attempt, the giant is visibly weakened, but now has caught up entirely with her. Marash activates her gauntlets, projecting acid at the giant. Its fists arc with electricity each time they strike her.

Marash prays for an orb of draining, hitting the giant hard, but it continues to pummel her. A few strikes with her main gauche, and finally it falls. The giant hit hard.

At the end of the corridor, a door. Marash detects no evil on the other side, but in the distance, something called a 'shadow drake'.

The room behind the door is dark. Marash illuminates it with the Phial, revealing the room to be empty save for a mistletoe staff of teleportation.

More corridors, more rooms of nothing. A growing sense of foreboding. The only path onward lies through the white dragon and the werewolf she sensed earlier, or by descending into more perilous depths of Angband.

Rubble blocks her path. On clearing it, Marash discovers some elvish waybread buried beneath the stone, still fresh after however long it has been trapped here.

Marash pauses around the corner from the dragon, praying for protections: from evil, from heat and cold, and to be blessed.

So-protected, the dragon falls to a barrage of rods and gauntlet and prayer without managing a single attack on Marash. The werewolf behind, with the aid of arrows brought from home, falls quickly also.

Marash ends up replacing her corroded wicker shield of fire resistance for a shiny new metal shield of acid resistance. She is already protected from both elements by other sources, but at least this shield won't be damaged so easily as the old one.

There is a potion that would restore any of Marash's life that may be drained, also dropped by the white dragon. To make room for it, she foolishly eats the elvish waybread she just found. It is so filling that Marash feels quite gorged, and she cannot move as freely as she is accustomed to.

Fortunately, a second prayer for her hunger to be satisfied cures her.

More roaming through uncomfortably empty corridors, until at opening of another large, dark chamber, Marash detects fresh evil. Snagas, which she no longer fears, werebears, which make her nervous, and a grave wight, which definitely does. Further to the east, a kobold and a guardian naga, which also do not concern her.

Marash stands at the entrance to a dark room, with a pit trap in front of her. Through a southward corridor, that room leads to another, in which Marash can sense a small cluster of snagas, and a more-scattered group of werebears.

Greed, greed is bad, right? But here is a concentration of evil creatures known to carry useful items. Very tempting to pursue and slay them.

Now approaching the southern chamber in which the snagas and werebears lay, Marash discovers there is also a cluster of giant fire ants

A moment of pause. Between Marash and her blood treasure lies another cluster of fire ants. She no longer fears them so much as before she fought them, but approaching closer and realising there are not merely six ants, but at least fourteen.

As she gets nearer, Marash sees the cluster of giant fire ants is much larger than she expected, almost surrounding the snagas. There is also a grizzly bear nearby to the ants, near where she detected the werebears

Marash experiences a moment of selfish worry - those ants are clustered around the snagas. If they trample the snagas to death trying to get at her, she won't be able to loot the snagas' corpses.

First protection from fire; second blessing herself. Third, centring an orb of draining on the nearest snaga. Snagas: dead. Various ants enraged, and a couple of grizzly bears in pursuit.

A singed grizzly bear flees from Marash

A fire bolt from her rod sends the first bear fleeing, her main gauche strikes down the second, and a blow from it sends a cave bear running too. Then at last she sees the reason for all these bears - Beorn, the Shape-Changer is here.

He shrugs off lightning and acid. Drain life hurts him a little. Fortunately he is mostly missing her with his many attacks, or she would be in dire straits already.

Though it is attuned to evil creatures, and Beorn is not evil, an orb of draining does help... but not as much as she'd hoped. In desperation she turns her wand of teleport other on him, disappearing Beorn, a werebear, and a giant fire ant.

Other ants soon arrive to trample the remaining bears to death. A lengthy battle of attrition ensues, with Marash low on health and mana after facing Beorn, and giant fire ants swarming in to attack her, trampling to death all the bears that were Beorn's escort.

Whenever her rods recharge, except the here-useless rod of fire bolts, Marash blasts the nearest ant with them (or the nearest healthy one if that might be overkill).

Eventually she runs out of mana entirely, and her protection from fire fades. The ants have been destroying her staves and scrolls and prayer books throughout the battle, though Marash has not lost her entire stock of anything. The ants crush underfoot any snagas or werebears foolish enough to try and involve themselves in the fight.

As she nears death, Marash drinks a potion of Cure Serious Wounds, restoring herself to her strength at the beginning of this drawn-out ant battle, and fights on.

One last burst of protection from heat and cold as her mana recovers enough. One last bolt of lightning from her rod, and one last ant left the slay before she can scour the wreckage of this room for anything of use.

But, she neglects to consider herself, and as the ant's jaws close upon her, flames erupting from its bite, Marash is finally burned to death.

Marash succumbs to the fires of the last giant fire ant's jaws, her life extinguished by its flame

So ends her lengthy, heroic quest to brave the depths of Angband and slay the dark lord, Morgoth.

The ant's flames also destroyed one of Marash's scrolls of phase door

58 2012

Marash's final statistics

The gear Marash had equipped at her death

Page one of Marash's home's contents

Page two of Marash's home's contents

Marash's history, page 1

Marash's history, page 2

Marash's history, page 3


Everything Marash has learned about Giant Fire Ants so far:

Marash has learned giant fire ants are natural creatures moving at normal speed, native to 1750 feet beneath the surface, with armour rating 49 and average life rating 176. Marash had a 76% chance to hit them in melee if she could see them. Each kill at her final level was worth 408.33 experience points. Marash knew they glowed with their own light and could destroy lesser creatures, that they resisted fire, appeared in groups and had two bite attacks each dealing 3d12 fire damage

Originally published at a denizen's entertainment. You can comment here or there.

Level 36: You are unsure about this place

Detecting evil finds little to fuss about. Only a shade and thirteen hill orcs sleeping in the distance. And a sabre-tooth tiger - since when are those evil?

Ah, but it is not evil. It has merely charged Marash from out of the darkness in her first moments here. She turns her rod of fire bolts upon the tiger and immediately its charge becomes a scramble to escape.

The rod has recharged just in time to send the tiger fleeing again upon its return, while Marash explores the dark room she has been recalled into. On the sabre-tooth tiger's third return, a quick jab with her main gauche disposes of it. A shame the Enemy has twisted so much life to his service, so that it can no longer be dealt with peacefully.

As she trudges along the northward corridor out, the only path out, Marash looks longingly at some treasure trapped within a quartz vein. Beyond her ability to pry loose.

She is interrupted by something in the darkness casting a ball of cold at her. Though not seriously hurt, she is worried, and retreats back to the room, around the corner to await the arrival of this mysterious foe. It does not register as evil, but at least blessing herself will help.

But nothing comes. Cautiously she steps out again, then a few steps forward until she is back where she was. Marash holds up the Phial of Galadriel, hoping to illuminate her foe.

No luck. But something out in the darkness is trying to magically blind her. So far it has not proved capable of seriously harming her, so she presses on, and finally the source of trouble is revealed: a potion mimic.

Keeping her gaze fixed on the mimic, Marash reaches to her right and closes an open door. No sense being vulnerable from additional directions. Then, she aims her rod and almost shatters the bizarre creature with a single firebolt.

It is overkill, but a follow-up lightning bolt finishes the job.

As Marash explores a dark corridor, a white wolf bursts through a door behind her

Heading north, a white wolf bursts through a door behind her. Satisfyingly, she pursues the wolf and its packmates through some winding corridors, slaying many, until she is brought up short by the sight of a giant fire ant trampling a white wolf to death.

As Marash rounds a corner, she witnesses a white wolf trampled to death by a giant fire ant

This is a vexing development. Never has Marash faced such an ant in battle before, and she has no wish to do so now. Yet, it is right before her and not quite so fearsome she believes she must bail entirely.

She calls upon her staff of sleep, and the ant looks drowsy momentarily (while the white wolf behind it collapses to the floor), but shakes the spell off. Its bite envelopes Marash in flames.

That failing, Marash blesses herself and prays for resistance to heat and cold. The ant is not so tough as she feared, though tougher by far than she'd like, and soon loses the exchange of blows. Not even another wolf attack from behind distracts Marash.

She attempts to finish off the white wolf sleeping in front of her, but it flees around the corner, where she discovers another six fire ants lie in wait.

A line of six giant fire ants wait for Marash around the corner

Immediately Marash sends a lightning bolt through the line of ants, then heals and re-blesses herself before joining melee.

With re-blessing and renewing her heat resistance every time they falter, along with a lightning bolt every time her rod recharges, Marash gets through the ants almost unscathed. Her only casualties are a scroll of phase door and a scroll of recall, and even when a hill orc joins the fray she is free to mostly ignore it in favour of the more threatening ants.

While Marash fights the giant fire ants, a hill orc attacks her from behind

Finally, a bolt of lightning kills the second to last ant at back, and her main gauche sends the last fleeing around the corner. Marash pursues it... into still more ants.

Around the corner, more giant fire ants

Luckily this turns out to be just one more ant, or so Marash thinks until, when it is nearly dispatched, another giant fire ant wanders over to join the fray. Not so worrying, even at the cost of a staff of sleep lost to fiery ant bites, nor even when a hill orc and a couple of white wolves come after her from the other side.

While Marash battles the giant fire ant ahead, a hill orc and white wolf attack from behind

 Marash has killed at least 7 of them. It is covered in shaggy fur and its jaws glow with heat. It is a natural creature, normally found at depths of 1750 feet, moves at normal speed, is worth 422.41 experience points for a character of Marash's level. It can trample weaker monsters, lights its surroundings, resists fire and has two bite attacks which deal fire damage.

When Marash slays the giant fire ant, she spots a new foe lurking behind it - an impact hound

Worry comes when a new beast follows behind the latest ant, a dark brown form rippling with power as it stalks the dungeon. An impact hound. She does not think it will be alone. Nor does she know what manner of damage this forceful form might do; she is only sure it will be unpleasant.

 she has never fought one to the death. It is deep brown and buckles the floor beneath its step. A natural creature, native to a depth of 1750 feet, moves at normal speed and worth 603.45 experience points to Marassh at the time. It usually appears in groups and she knows nothing of its attack.

She turns her attention north, trying to carve a path through the hill orc and out of harm's way. Of course, as soon as she strikes the orc down, the wolves take its place.

Marash strikes down the orc to her north, hoping to clear a space for retreat, but instead the white wolves fill that gap as soon as it occurs.

No hope there, especially as now there are three wolves clamouring for her. Marash turns her attention back to the ant. Slow going there, until at last the hound breathes.

The impact hound breathes pure force, instantly killing one wolf, dazing the other, the giant fire ant in front of her, and Marash herself

Pure force tears and stuns her. The wolf nipping at her heels dies instantly; another wolf and the giant fire ant are both dazed by the blast. This is... not good.

The impact hound's force breath stuns Marash

She steps into the space vacated by the recently deceased wolf. At the same moment, her rod of lightning bolts recharges. She celebrates by toasting the three wolves blocking her line of retreat.

With her rod of lightning, Marash destroys the three white wolves blocking the corridor to her north

Her head clears. Marash decides she is best off elsewhere. Perhaps chasing those hill orcs... she heads north. The hill orcs are just to the north-west, while there is a young multi-hued dragon to the north-east. Orcs first.

The path leads to another large, dark chamber, and what appears to be a solitary white wolf. Two white wolves, when the room is illuminated. Marash takes long enough attempting to dispose of them that hill orcs begin pouring in.

She steps back into the corridor to deal with them. No need to get surrounded.

The first two orcs flee quickly enough, so Marash presses into the corridor from which they emerged. A lightning bolt weakens several severely, and none of the orcs tax her. Very little they drop is of use to her, however. Only a potion of Restore Mana.

She must choose a next action. To the southwest are at least four cave trolls, and the young multi-coloured dragon remains. Since the trolls are near where she encountered the impact hounds, it may be best to avoid that area. Marash heads for the dragon.

Upon stepping out into an unvisited corridor, Marash is immediately buffeted by the force of an impact hound's breath

One step and force buffets her, stunning her. Unseen hounds. She steps back. It would be very useful if she had some way of remotely detecting these, so as to better avoid them.

If that direction is off-limits, she will take a different path back around to face the dragon. In preparation she protects herself from evil, fire and cold, and blesses herself.

A couple of steps away, Marash uses her rod of drain life on it. The dragon flees to a corner immediately, then breathes lightning and fire at her. As Marash pursues, it retreats around the corner before making its stand, main gauche against claws and teeth, lightning and fire and frost.

After some fierce trading of blows the young multi-hued dragon retreats down the corridor. Eventually it turns back to fight, its escape cut off by a pile of rubble, just as Marash's rod of drain life finishes recharging.

She fails to use her rod properly and suffers under another round of sharpened, angry dragon. Finally, one last jab with her blade does the creature in.

Its treasure, sadly, is nothing much. Marash attempts to clear away the rubble blocking the passage, as her various protections fade with time, until finally she spots an impact hound approaching her from behind.

No good, no good. She prays for a portal... and finds herself in an unknown part of this floor.

Having portalled to escape an impact hound, Marash finds herself in an unfamiliar, dark room

Nearby evil: a young gold dragon, a shade, and a hardened warrior. None of these hugely frighten her; she wonders if they might be worth tangling with, if she might extract something of value from them before leaving this place.

It seems inevitable that she must leave this place, soon, if she is to be pursued by hounds everywhere she turns.

Marash is confronted by a multi-eyed floating orb - a spectator

She hears a door burst open, and rounds a corner to find herself face to face with a spectator, a large, fanged floating globe with eyes on the ends of stalks. Not something she has faced before, nor something she wishes to face now.

Marash blesses herself in preparation for combat with this non-evil monstrosity. As she does so, a water hound stalks into view behind it. She steps to one side, hoping to keep out of line of sight of the water hound, but the spectator's gaze confuses her.

She zaps herself with a rod of curing, clearing her head. One of the water hounds - out of Marash's sight - breathes acid. Fortunately the spray hits her acid-resistant armour, and she hopes the spectator is hit harder than she.

Marash then tries to turn her rod of drain life against the spectator but fumbles the activation. The spectator attempts to paralyse her with its gaze, fails, then succeeds at confusing Marash again.

She uses her second rod of curing, then fumbles with the rod of drain life again. Fortunately this time the spectator doesn't confuse her again. Finally Marash's rod works and the spectator falls to the ground in a lifeless heap again.

A water hound took its place immediately. Stabbing away at the hound only gets Marash's shield damaged by its acid breath, so she finally concedes to the inevitable and reads a scroll of recall.

Long, tense seconds pass, of stabbing hounds to death, her equipment being corroded by the seemingly endless stream of hounds that flow in to replace them, until finally she feels herself yanked back up to the surface.



September 2017

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