August and September

I got a lot done this month. Or at least it seems so. Not everything I thought I might do, but still a bunch.

First off, I did accomplish my goal of having a proper Blaugust, writing a new post every day. Some of them weren’t the best posts, but there was only one that was completely no-effort, so good on me. Having the prompts really helped some days. I didn’t write about everything I wanted to, but I did get to most of it. Like, I didn’t get to reviewing the Princess Connect anime, but at least I watched the first three episodes (and almost wrote about them, but then I remembered something else more timely).

I actually started two new games. First, Harspace: Shipbreakers, which I wrote about the other day; and then Assassins Creed: Odyssey, which I haven’t yet. Both are good, fun games. Both took me away from the other games I’m playing, and made me wish I had more hours in the day to play.

I also kept up with the dailies, and more, in my other games. Just dailies in ESO and STO, and significantly more in the mobile games I’ve been playing. Pokemon Masters really has revamped things with its latest major update, and it’s more fun to play; plus, it has its anniversary celebration going on right now.

I actually got back into Granblue Fantasy in a real way, for some reason. I guess it was the extra quests with the summer celebration. But I put actual effort into Rise of Beasts, and actually participated in guild wars (I think I broke my (admittedly pathetic) record for honors). I was planning on 40-boxing Sarasa up to 5*, but decided to just use the classic method after looking at all the materials I didn’t have that I still needed.

As for next month, there are definitely some thing’s I’m looking forward to. Crusader Kings 3 just came out today, and I’m itching to get into it. Genshin Impact should come out this month, I think, and that’s something else worth investigating, if I don’t think it will infest my computer with CCP funny business (it’s not Tencent, but it’s still mainlander Chinese I’m pretty sure). Craftopia is coming to early access soon, and that looks like it might be my jam.

Relaxation

Today is the last Blaugust prompt, and it’s from the B-Man himself, Belghast:

What is your favorite thing to do in order to relax?

The first, most obvious thing to come to mind is: video games. That’s basically the first thing that comes to mind in most situations, really, but that’s how I like to spend my “relaxing” time. But then I thought, is the answer really that simple? Is that how I actually relax? After all, video games tend to get the juices flowing, not the opposite. Probably the times I’m most frustrated on average are video games.

But then the question becomes, what else is there to do to relax? Watch videos? I suppose that’s one thing, but I mostly do that when I’m bored and can’t play video games. Read a book? When was the last time I did that, especially in place of doing much of anything else. Writing? Hah! Just browsing the internet? Again, that’s more of a thing I do when I”m not playing games.

So I guess the answer is actually video games. But I think the “relax” part is more of an emotional relaxation than a physical or mental relaxation. (Though I suppose sitting there playing vidya is pretty physically relaxing…) If I just want to forget my problems (or anyone else’s) for a bit, video games keeps my mind off of it like nothing else. It’s like keeping busy to keep your mind off of something, but actually fun. Even if I get frustrated with a game, that’s far different from being frustrated with the state of the world, or my bank account. Even just thinking about different lore or headcanon or whatever is relaxing, even if it does literally keep me up at night.

Hardspace: Shipbreakers – A Review

Here we’ve got an early-access game that actually seems pretty good. The early-access part seems to be mainly just lack of content – the polish is pretty good, even at this stage. If you’re looking for a work simulator, but IN SPACE, this might be the game for you.

So far, I’ve done 21 hours in the game. I have ADD, and this is a work sim, so that should tell you something. If I didn’t have other exciting games to play, I’d be playing this every night. Sure, it doesn’t have any fighting, but there are layzors and splosions, so it’s still fun and exciting and manly and such.

As suggested on the cover, you play the role of a ship breaker – the person that takes apart ships for salvage. This is a real-life job, but naturally it’s not a space job, yet. In the normal game mode, you have 15-minute blocks of time to take a ship apart. As long as you do it in one sitting, you can pick at the same ship for multiple time blocks (logging out for some reason doesn’t save the ship). There is also another mode where you have an unlimited amount of time per block to work on a ship.

Regardless of the time taken, each block represents one day of work. After each shift you have to pay interest on your loans, as well as rent on your room and equipment, and any fees incurred during your last play session (if you die, you get charged for the cloning). Oh, yes, you have loans. You start the game with a billion-space-bucks debt, presumably the money the company spent to ship you up to space. It’s very much a company store situation. ‘Fortunately,’ you get a big chunk of money for each part you salvage, so your goal is to get more money from salvage than the costs you incur each day.

As can be seen from above, each item you salvage is itemized. There are three broad categories of salvage, based on where you put them. There’s stuff you put into the barge, which are things like chairs, computers, fuel, and reactors, that can be reused as-is. There are things that go to the processor, and then things that go to the furnace; I don’t know the logic of which goes where, here, but there apparently is a difference. The game helpfully tells you what item goes where as you hold it, so you don’t have to guess or memorize, though you get used to it pretty quick. If you put something in the wrong place, it is rejected and destroyed, and you don’t get any money from it (I don’t know if that gets taken out of your profits as well, or not).

Lucky for you, you don’t just have your hands and mass to move entire ship parts. You have a space magic tool to help you move those heavy objects contrary to Newton’s laws. You have a sort of tractor beam, which lets you directly manipulate objects. You can then push objects to…give them a push to where you want them to go. And then there are tethers, which basically pull two objects together like a rope that contracts on its own.

Conveniently, the ships you take apart are very modular. Parts are mostly just held together by some sort of space magic glue field, with a few structural joints that are easily cut with your laser (those yellow striped bars in the picture above). It’s only the rare part that you actually need to cut metal for (like the airlocks for some reason, or glass windows). After that, you just need to put the right parts in the right place, starting from the outside, then moving in.

I mentioned death earlier. Because you sure can die, in many terrible ways. You can fly into the furnace. You can get hit by any of the various parts your moving around. You can exploded by the reactor or fuel or coolant. You can run out of oxygen. You can get electrocuted. You can even somehow catch on fire. The main difference in the harder difficulties is how many lives you have – infinite on normal, 30 on hard, and one on the hardest.

There is some management and improvement possible. Every individual ship has certain items that you are assigned to salvage, via the Work Order system. Each work order you accomplish gets you xp (they call it LT in this game, but it’s xp). You can also recover lore bits (Logs), which give xp as well. You use this xp to upgrade your various gear, and you can even use it to buy it outright from the company (so you don’t have to rent it – your equipment rental is the main daily cost that eats into your profits). Your upgrades are limited by a level system, which is task-based, and thus independent of xp (though things that give xp often also accomplish those tasks as well).

That’s about it. Pretty simple game. The fun is in the execution. It does get repetitive, though. At this point there are only two classes of ships, with two basic variations each. As I said, I got 21 hours before I wanted to play different games. If you like work sims, or other games where fine-tuning the process is what you like, this is for you. I only have a certain amount of patience for that. But still, 21 hours is a good amount of time, and I didn’t even come close to completing everything (didn’t even get to trying the last major ship variation). If the devs just abandoned it right now, as-is, I’d say it’s worth the $25 price tag. But they haven’t, and are continually improving it (there was one major issue I had, but it was resolved in the last patch!).

Double Cartoon Review: Lower Decks ep 4 and Granblue Fantasy ep 14

Since two episodes of different stuff came out this week, I’m going to review both at once. Good thing, because I don’t have much to say about either, but two is good for one blog post.

Lower Decks was, once again, OK. Not as good as the last episode, but still OK. It was, however, the most consistently funny episode yet: there weren’t some of the highs of the last episode, but there weren’t as many luls between the lols either.

The trouble remains, once again, the character of Mariner. She increases her Mary Sue levels once again. One might object, saying that she’s clearly a jerk. But this show comes from a school of thought that being a jerk is fine, if not good, if one is correct and/or funny. Mariner is right in every instance in this episode. It was nice to see her get a bit of character suffering, but it didn’t last. (Also, why do they just skip Lt.jg? They even have one of those this very episode.)

I’m also getting a bit weary of the “major crisis takes over the ship” gag. It’s like they think there must be a major action sequence every episode. I think this is where a lot of the not-Trek feeling comes from.

There was a serious misstep with the latest (and last) episode of Granblue Fantasy: there were two separate stories, one of which featured Gran. It seems almost like that section was an afterthought, even though it wasn’t: the animation and art is the worst in the series, almost constantly off-model and simple. It was mildly amusing seeing Lucha Gran, but it would have been better with Djeeta.

Much like the second part was. It’s clear that’s where the budget went to: most of the art is at the level of the best in the series, even the random mob shots. It’s also much more entertaining, a send-up of the shoujo-yuri genre. (Once again, Vira steals the show in her scenes.) I’m of course biased, but it was much better. And even funnier, with that ending. I wish the whole episode was this part, fleshed out.

Things To Look Forward To

Today’s Blaugust prompt is from Utlrviolet at Engame Viable:

What are you looking forward to the most over the course of the next year?

While I’m not as pessimistic as he is, I’ve got to say I’m not looking forward to much in the next year myself. I mean, this past year has been much the same for me as last year, despite all the craziness. The details might be a bit different, but the big picture is very much unchanged. The main thing is that I’m now on a diet. Even missing my gall bladder (having it removed 11 months ago) isn’t a big deal. I can aniticipate the same sort of anxieties over money, the same boredom at work, the same getting mad at twitter and Hollywood idiots, the same existential loneliness, the same disappointment in myself for not blogging consistently.

Even so, there are still a few things I do look forward to. As fitting this blog, most of them have to do with video games (seeing as how that’s a big part of my life). And conveniently, this goes well in list form:

  • Looks like some good games are on the horizon. We’ve got Cyberpunk and Atelier Ryza 2 coming out for sure in the next year. I hope BotW 2 comes out in that time frame as well. Hell, technically Crusader Kings 3 comes out in the next year, even if that is in the next four days.
  • I think, even considering those, I will still have time for more games. Like my whole backlog. Decreasing that is something to look forward to.
  • I look forward to work going back to normal. Not that I mind the incredibly slow pace – quite the contrary, I love it – but I would like to see this place boppin’ again. And, more importantly, I want to go back to my normal schedule. Moving from Tue-Sat to Mon-Fri doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it’s pretty much the worst thing that’s happened to me since I started working here – and that’s for my whole life, not just workaday stuff. It shouldn’t matter this much, but it does. No one understands why, least of all me.
  • I look forward to hitting my target weight. I wanted to hit it by the end of the year, and I’m sooooo close. I won’t be able to go back to the way things were after – that’s what made me fat in the first place – but I can ease up a little bit. Maybe allow a snack or dessert once in a while. Might even be able to start baking, once I can actually eat the stuff I make.

Granblue Fantasy: Collaborations in Canon

Collaborations are a popular thing with long-running games, at least in Japan. They’re often used as a means of cross promotion with existing properties, or just plain promotion of new properties. They tend to be promotions of both sides: the players of the game the collab might check out the other thing, and fans of that other thing might come play this game. I say “thing” because they could be other games, or a movie, anime, or whatever (Final Fantasy Brave Exvious famously had a collaboration with…Adriana Grande).

That’s all well and good, but in an RPG of some sort, those collabs often come with a some sort of story. Since these collabs might not even be in the same genre, they might try to justify their inclusion into the RPG. The lazy way is just to use a dimensional portal, or some other use of Multiverse; for example, this is what is used in Dragalia Lost, though at least this is justified already from the game’s story (and Fire Emblem Heroes as well, which was actually used to some good effect in the last collab). But not all games use this, at least not exclusively.

Today we’re going to look at Granblue Fantasy’s inclusion of collabs into its story (or rather, have already looked at, because that’s what the image at top is). This game uses pretty much every way you might think to include characters from other franchises in a way that isn’t too crazy:

  • First, those franchises are considered already a part of its world. Some of these aren’t too jarring, since they are already medieval fantasies, like Princess Connect or Slayers. But Street Fighter (modern) or Attack on Titan (industrial fantasy)? At least GBF can justify this by saying it’s just another isolated island in the sky.
  • We do have one isolated example of merely being a different timeline. This is easy to do, since Gachapin and Mukku are just characters, rather than using an entire fictional work. Also, it’s from a comedy event, so things don’t need to make sense.
  • The next is same universe, but different worlds. As in, the characters could hop on a space ship and travel normally. This makes sense for Pretty Cure, since that’s a thing that happens in that show (though teleportation works faster, and is what is used here). For Persona, the GBF world is connected to the same collective unconscious as the Persona series. (This also has the implication that PreCure and Persona are the same world.)
  • This next one – same multiverse – is what I described previously. In GBF all of these examples use the same effect for how the characters get to the GBF world, so that implies that it’s the same mechanism. (I don’t know why the Shadowverse collab used this, but it did.)
  • The last one is a little more off. I used “different multiverse” just because it’s a different mechanism (in story). In those, the various characters don’t get physically transported to the GBF world. It’s basically a “it was just a dream” plot device. This is my least-favorite method – it just seems so cheap.

Regrets

I don’t have many regrets. Maybe could count them on one hand. It’s my thinking that, unless you actively screwed up something fierce, you have nothing to regret. Sure, things might have gone better, or have gone a bit worse, because of a choice you did (or did not) make, but as long as you’re generally on the right path, why bother agonizing over the past?

So yah, not many regrets here. I do have a couple that are personal, but I do have to admit one, which has bothered me some in the past, and came up again today, one I bet is common to a lot of people.

I knew about Bitcoin from the beginning, almost. I remember hearing about it back when it was cheap and easy to get. But I never got on with it. I didn’t think it would be worth it. And, at the time, it wasn’t. The amount spent on electricity mining it wasn’t worth the return. And I didn’t have any money at the time to buy some. And why would I bother? It was just going to be used by nerds and drug dealers; I couldn’t really use it for anything.

I was right, of course. Those things were factually true. Even now, you can’t really pay for much in any of the crypto currencies. But, oh, so wrong. I didn’t see it as an investment vehicle. I didn’t think it would go anywhere. Even though I only had like $20 in the bank on a good day, that could have gotten me real money in the future. I’ve always been like this: dismissing good investment opportunities (either in myself, or with my money) as either not worth it, or making excuses as to why it wasn’t a safe bet.

I don’t care that much about money – if I did, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now. But I do like to have a bit of security. And some crypto would go a long way right about now.

Granblue Fantasy: Where Are They Now?

In a game like Granblue Fantasy or Dragalia Lost, it’s often assumed that if a new character comes out for the player to recruit, that said character joins the main group. But looking at the story, that’s clearly not the case. Granblue Fantasy has a lot of characters, and a lot of people joke that there are like 200+ people on that airship (the Grancypher). I decided to group them up based on whether they are actually on the ship, and if so, how much? While this image is a bit more self-explanatory than yesterday’s, I’ll still describe it a bit:

  • Permanent resident basically means what it says: the Grancypher is their home, and serves as their main base. They won’t always be there – in fact, they might take long breaks – but that is where they come back to. Basically, they take their mail there. At least until they accomplish what they joined the crew to do in the first place, wherein they become Former Residents. So permanent isn’t forever, just for the duration of their personal adventure.
  • Temporary resident is like the Grancypher is their vacation home. It’s a place where they always have at least some of their stuff, but it’s not where “home” is. Or, it might be home, but they are gone so often that it might as well not be (I think most of the Society crew is basically here, though they basically leave Beatrix to be babysat on the ship).
  • There are some characters that don’t live on the ship, but show up often enough that they may as well be part of the crew. They always have a place, but they don’t keep their stuff there. Like a good friend, not family. Often these characters just happen to meet up with the crew often enough to become popular, or the crew actually goes to visit them every so often.
  • The “taxi” thing is for those people that just go along with the crew when they happen to be going in the same direction.
  • And then there are the characters that never even joined the crew. Even though they’re characters that you can pull from the gacha, and they might even be important to the story, they might never even step foot on the ship.

I went into this thinking there wouldn’t be so many permanent residents, though really I shouldn’t have. The lower-rarity characters are mostly older characters, when the storytelling was simpler and less confident, and people would just join up for the flimsiest of reasons. And those characters would just basically join up, and that’s the last we hear of them – they’re completely irrelevant from then on, unless they are somehow popular and get an alt. The ranks of higher-rarity characters include a lot of characters that come from events, which usually involve the crew going somewhere and things happen to other people, that the crew helps them with. This generally eliminates the need to introduce the character, so they can just get to a proper story for the character stories (which every gacha unit has). Since these characters are more memorable, they became over-represented in my mind.

I don’t have all the characters in the game up there. Some of the newer characters are absent, though I don’t think there’s anyone of particular note. I also didn’t know what to do with some characters, since I don’t have them (or haven’t read their character stories), so I just left them off. That includes all of the Oracles; I figure most of them become permanent additions to the ship (since they are pretty much all outcasts for one reason or another).

Also, I have to say that Tiermaker is a good site. It makes a way to present a lot of info in a concise and attractive manner. A picture is worth a lot of words, especially if you can put words on that picture. There is a definite risk that this will become cringe delivery, like demotivators did, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. I have at least one more GBF lore thing I can do with it, just off the top of my head (I could do a roles thing like I did with Dragalia Lost, but I think it’s redundant, since they are so much more clear, and the story actually uses them when relevant).

Dragalia Lost: Character Roles

I’ve written previously on some of the issues that Dragalia Lost has with its story, especially how much potential is wasted. Well, here’s some more. There are all these characters, and yet so very few are used in the story at all, particularly the main story. So here I’ve sorted them out into their various story roles, as I see them. At least roughly. These are distinct from the gameplay roles the units have, as that’s a lot simpler and sometimes completely different.

As it wouldn’t be much of a blog post if I didn’t have any discussion, I’ll give some explanation, since the categories are sometimes a bit weird.

  • General basically means leader of lots of soldiers. I’m sure most of those up there aren’t actual Generals, but you know, heads of state actively leading armies is close enough. Also included were the leaders of knightly orders like Eli (leader of all the Paladyns) and Lief (head of the main knightly order of Alberia), since I figured that’s close enough.
  • Knights and Fighters/Warriors is admittedly a bit of an arbitrary distinction. I figured knights were the fighters that also had more minor leadership roles, especially if they were elite warriors, or otherwise distinguished. Characters described as junior knights in-game I listed under Fighter for that reason. Knights also include trainers like Celery or Raymond.
  • Mage is pretty much what you’d think. It includes, but is not exclusive to, battle mages. Fortune tellers count as mages I guess.
  • I included all the ninja characters under Assassins, because that’s what ninjas are supposed to be (and that aesthetic continues in this game), even if those characters are theoretically in the bodyguard role, protecting against possible assassins.
  • Researchers includes everything from lecturers to mad scientists. Basically the nerds.
  • I put Catherine under Merchants because I figured she was rich for a reason, and I didn’t want a category of one otherwise.
  • Adventurers are like your typical RPG PC – someone who travels around doing various things for various reasons, often taking jobs from various people. Most of the characters described as mercenaries fall here. If a character just travels looking for fights, I put them under Fighter, though.
  • Treasure Hunters are different from Adventurers because they’re just after one thing: treasures. The reasons and means are different, but that’s what they’re about.
  • Entertainers includes any of the arts, in addition to just entertainment. So we’ve got a painter, a writer, some dancers, and even a fireworks guy.
  • Servants include all sorts of domestics (like chefs), as well as bodyguards and couriers.
  • I separated out Detective, since that seems like a very particular role of investigation + pursuit + fighting, all in one profession.
  • Civilian is a broad category. Mostly it’s just random NPC-types, villagers for the most part. Basically people that would have no real job in a RPG party. Includes everyone from random kids to dispossessed nobles that don’t have any particular skill. Surprised this category is so large, since this is an RPG after all. But as I said, the gameplay is divorced from the story pretty heavily here, and the characters can have fun stories separate from the main story.
  • Dragon was just for those role-less dragon characters. (Faries count as dragons I guess).
  • The Fire Emblem characters were hard to categorize. They’re hero characters in their own games for the most part, and I guess fill other roles there. But here they’re just kinda there, fighting Euden’s enemies, without their normal crews. Very odd.

Star Trek Picard: A Belated Review

This is really late, and nothing I say here will be terribly original, but I have to be honest.

I hate this show.

Not just because it’s low-quality, but because it actively, purposefully takes a massive dump on Trek and its fans. STD was bad in just about every way besides sfx (and even those often looked bad, but that was art direction, not poor quality), but Picard was worse. The writing is bad, the effects were not great, the directing was often poor, and the story itself is garbage.

It’s too bad, too. The show didn’t exactly start strong, but it wasn’t terrible either. But taking a full 30% of the show on the basic set-up (without leaving Earth) was a bad move, even if that stuff was some of the best stuff in the show (a low bar, to be sure). And that wasn’t even the end of the set-up, either. No, four of ten episodes happened before the adventure proper starts.

And then things go downhill, fast. The entire fifth episode was a joke which feels more at home in a SyFy original than Star Trek (moreso than the rest of the show). That would have been bearable, if they didn’t literally destroy the legacy of Trek out at the end of the episode. And things got even worse after that. With only one sort-of quality episode after the third (unsurprisingly, the one where we get good guest-stars, and the one without the vast majority of the Picard-original characters), the show just goes from one mess to the next.

It doesn’t help that this show feels cheap. Despite being supposedly one of the most expensive shows in the history of television (there are rumors that a bunch of funding was diverted to STD S3, which I can believe), things seem so simple and basic. The space shots are sparse. The sets, especially the main ship set, are cheap. The props are even more out of place than the sets, especially as the show goes on (they literally use a standard, unmodified park table as the “meeting table”). The lack of ship designs in a Star Trek show is atrocious – in any large fleet scene, there are three separate ship designs, even the one time there are two opposing fleets!

Also note the standard, unmodified folding park chairs in the background.

As far as the overall story goes, it’s pretty trash. The initial mystery is fine, if starting with an incredibly dumb premise. Having the two stories, one of the Picard gang, and the other on the Borg ship, was fine in concept, but the execution didn’t work, because the characters in the Borg plot were not the sort that people want to watch: you have an alien ship, in alien territory, with lots of ethical implications as to what they’re doing, and yet that is all just background to soap opera drama.

Actually, that’s a good illustration of the entire show: all this possibly-cool stuff going on, and it’s all merely non-context to poorly-written melodrama. This didn’t need to be Trek: it could have been any modern sci-fi drama if you changed the names. Hell, change it to fantasy, just replacing the spaceships with waterships, and Borg with zombies (that would actually fit the state of the reclaimed Borg better…). Literally the only stuff that requires some knowledge of past Trek is the Borg stuff, and the characters of Locutus, Riker, Data, and Troi. (Maddox and Picard may as well be completely different people.) And as far as the character knowledge goes, the only Trek you’d need to watch was the movie Nemesis – it’s clear that’s the only Trek any of the main writers watched in full (they skimmed First Contact too, for the Borg stuff). All the rest of the Trek references could have been gleaned from wiki articles.

All of that is sad. I had some small hopes for the series at first, but they were all dashed to pieces. It’s dreck, and insulting to fans like me on top of that. STD could at least be slightly excused by being a prequel, but this is a direct sequel to Nemesis, and should have at least been somewhat respectful of that. It was marketed to TNG fans, and yet there’s nothing there for them.