My Goals for March

Time for a new slice of curious life!

Yes, in my quest to be the most interesting person in the world (or at least in my own household), I have a new category that I am going to add to this blog: ACHIEVEMENTS!
And no, I don’t mean like recognition from other people for all the hard work I’ve done over the years——pffftt, can’t even finish that sentence without laughing. I mean, like, personal achievements, goals met, that sort of thing. You play Xbox, yes? Yes? So you know I’m talking about Xbox Achievements, right? Right?

Here, have a Wikipedia article to get you up to speed: click here! And here’s a quote from said page! Look here:

“In video gaming parlance, an achievement, also sometimes known as a trophy, badge, award, stamp, medal or challenge, is a meta-goal defined outside of a game’s parameters. Unlike the systems of quests or levels that usually define the goals of a video game and have a direct effect on further gameplay, the management of achievements usually takes place outside the confines of the game environment and architecture.[1] Meeting the fulfillment conditions, and receiving recognition of fulfillment by the game, is referred to as unlocking the achievement.”

Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. And man, do I really love that definition. Meta-goals defined outside of a game’s parameters… These goals that I am hoping to achieve are like playing Life outside of the normal daily quests. What are daily quests? Hoo boy…maybe I should put a gaming tag on this…For example, my usual daily “quests” are as follows: brush the dog, dress the child, make dinner, do the dishes, etc. It’s like the normal upkeep for normal living, or something like that.

But these achievements are meant to be something more. Something not entirely necessary to life, but that will enhance it! So without further ado:
My March Achievements *insert big dramatic orchestra music here*:

1) Finish  my online Mindfulness Course
2) Throw a dinosaur birthday party for my daughter
3) Join the April A-Z Blogging Challenge
4) Commit to and make a cabin for Camp Nano
5) Become a better dog owner (start the 30 Days to a Well-Mannered Dog book)
6) Finish taking notes on my Library Books
7) Do Story Sketches 3 times a week.

As you can see, it’s a rather varied list, but trust me, I narrowed it down from even more ridiculous things. And I will make sure and keep this blog updated with my progress, don’t you worry. And I’ll explain a little bit about the topics as I get to them…whoo, commitment, yeah! But for now, it’s just enough to just make the goals. I mean, achievements. Stick to your own words, Christine…

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What achievements are you setting for yourself this month? Or have you reached them already, you glorious over-achiever-type cool person? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to support you/gaze jealously at you from afar!

My E3 Favorites

Now that the hype has died down, it’s time for my ultimate reveal of E3 faves! Here are the new E3 reveals that tickled my fancy. Surely you’re not sick of these lists by now, right? 🙂

The Last Guardian

A boy with a giant bird/dog/dragon companion. Is the boy guarding the animal? Or the other way around? Or both? I can’t wait to find out. And with a developer like Team Ico, the story is sure to be told in only a way a video game can.

Horizon Zero Dawn

This is one of those games that makes me long for a book version. The concept is a beautiful sci-fi and fantasy mix, and although I have high hopes that the game will be as good as the trailer, I would love to delve into some written story-telling in this setting. Also, that female protagonist though! Seems to be a common trait at E3, which definitely feels like a breath of fresh air.

Final Fantasy 7 Remake

Love it or hate it, FF7 really deserves a remake. Those original graphics are just oh-so-hard to watch and the movie Advent Children only left us fans wanting more. There are so many silly scenes in that game that I cannot wait to see in HD. Cloud crossdressing and riding a dolphin? Yes please. Hopefully this makes way for even more ambitious remakes (FF6, I’m looking at you).

World of Final Fantasy

This game got a little overshadowed by the FF7 remake announcement, but it looks pretty decent. Final Fantasy has a large cast of characters, scenery, and monsters and it’s nice to see those used in creative ways. These games can be a bit hit or miss, but I have my fingers crossed.

Sea of Thieves

I am so okay with being a pirate adventurer and sailing the seas with my online friends. So okay.

Adrift

This one is here mainly for its trailer. I don’t think I’d actually have the guts to play it, much like I can’t actually watch the movie Gravity without having a panic attack, but it’s a nice trailer, right?

Firewatch

I’m a sucker for good dialogue, so this one makes me happy. I can see a lot of good characterization happening during gameplay. And I don’t think I’ve ever played a game that featured forest rangers, so there’s that.

I know that there are many more wonderful games that were featured, but these were the few that seemed innovative and fresh. It really was a great showing from developers this year. I saw a lot of story-driven games, lots of female protagonists, lots of new and exciting ideas…there might be hope for the game industry after all. What were your favorites of this year? Let me know what I missed in the comments and have a great day!

If My Thoughts Were on Balloon Strings, Maybe They Would Stop Floating Away

Well, my undiagnosed ADD has really struck hard today, so this won’t be much of a blog post. I haven’t been able to hold a thought together all day and have spent most of my time writing to-do lists, browsing stupid click-bait links, and wandering around the house from one half-started task to another. I blame vacation for ruining my very delicate routine. But vacation was also very pleasant. I’m so conflicted…

I’ve got some blog posts in the works if I can get my head together this week. I saw Jurassic World on the weekend, started two new Final Fantasy games and revisited my Animal Crossing town, so expect to hear on those topics. Also, it has been declared plot week over on the facebook Nanowrimo page, so yeah, plotting! It actually fits in pretty nicely since my original goal this week was to make an outline for Camp Nano. I can use all the plotting help I can get. I’m more of a “characters first, plot second” kind of writer, much to my frustration.

Here’s hoping your Monday was a bit more productive than mine. And if not, at least we have the rest of the week to make it up!

Hope and Inspiration in the Strangest of Places

For a long time, I really struggled with the idea of keep a blog. Most blogs that I had read in the past had focused on a niche: food, organization, writing, photography…and I didn’t have one. My life is one big bumbling mess of nerdy things, artsy things, mom things, and writing about said things. My brain refuses to focus on one topic, so I thought that blogging wouldn’t be for me. I did quite a bit of blog stalking research to finally decide that I could probably attempt a journal/writing blog and thus, here I am. But my mind still wanders a bit and that is why I was so excited by what I found yesterday:

Now, yes, this video is an ad for an upcoming video game. But it’s much more than that. It’s a tiny story of hopes and dreams and the realization of both. I felt instantly connected to that man, alone in the field, planning out the dreams in his head. I have been there in that field, holding the bare bones of a main character in my head. I have laid down at night thinking of what my book will look like. I have cowered from the rain when plot holes and indecision have stopped my progress. And I think I am just starting to see the pieces fall into place, one by one, creating something beautiful.

Inspiration is everywhere, no matter the topic. The fact that I had profound writing thoughts while watching the coverage of this year’s E3 makes me confident about my choice to blog. Connecting different parts of my life together is what I aim to do, and if I can cross video game trailers with writing inspiration, I think this blog venture is going to turn out just fine.

Game Day 1 – Halo 2: A Mastery of Chiefness

Welcome to Game Day! A weekly post about a game of my choosing. Sit back, relax, and enjoy a game to get you through the week. Now playing: Halo 2 Anniversary Edition. Hope you enjoy!

*There be gameplay spoilers ahead. But if you haven’t played this ten-year-old game yet, the blame is yours.*

If you are an Xbox owner, you have most likely played Halo. If not, bad Xbox-owner! You don’t deserve that console! It’s an insult to Microsoft itself if you haven’t played their money-making flagship of a game. And if you don’t mind insulting Microsoft, that’s fine too. Yolo.

If you’re not an Xbox owner, then I’m betting you have at least seen the Master Chief’s shiny image plastered on some promo at Walmart at one point in your life. If not, you might be a sheltered hermit. Please leave the house more. And wear sunscreen. (I suppose you could also be a non-gamer, in which case I am impressed that you are even reading this. May the random number generators be ever in your favor.)

Halo: The Master Chief Collection was released by publisher Microsoft Studios in November of 2014 as a collection of the original Halo trilogy for the Xbox One. It was developed by Bungie’s successor to the series, 343 Industries, and included both the remastered versions of Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2, as well as the original Halo 3 and Halo 4 and a mix-’em-up grab bag of various online multiplayer maps from all the games. It was a great collection (bugs and glitches aside), but I will admit that I was hesitant in purchasing it. Call me a cheapskate, but I didn’t immediately see the reason for re-purchasing games that I already owned and had played in years past. Still, the allure of having these games on my shiny new Xbox One finally won me over, and so I shooed my husband out the door on Black Friday to go pick up the game.

While there are many things to do on the disc, I will be focusing on Halo 2 Anniversary Edition, which was new and unique to the collection, as well as being my least favorite Halo game. For reference, I played the campaign on co-op mode, which supports two players. Here’s my thoughts:

The Good:

The visuals, dear god, the visuals! When they say remastered, they meant it. The original Halo 2 looked like someone took the color wheel and deleted every color exept gray and brown. And in a time before detailed textures, this made the game look like it was vastly made of cardboard. Despite having played the old game several times, I rarely have any recollection of it’s battles or storyline. It wasn’t until playing the remastered version that I finally understood why: the original graphics were so poor that I never fully understood the dynamic of what was going on around me. The fine details of the story were lost in a sea of gray skies and brown walls. It was only when I could see the city skyscrapers and busy streets in the city-ship High Charity or notice the ships streaming from Earth that I really understood the story’s enormity.  My co-op partner and I spent a fair share of time just standing around, switching the graphics from old to new with our jaws on the floor. The remastered version also includes an audio overhaul too, upping the volume of the quite frankly fantastic soundtrack to where it needed to be.

Another great addition was new Skulls. Skulls act as game modifiers, doing anything from changing enemy behavior to making confetti pop out of an enemy’s head when you get a headshot. New skulls were added for the remaster, and I only wish they were included on the other games as well instead of just Halo 2. Some of my favorites are Boom (increased explosions), Pinata (enemies drop grenades when you punch them), and Grunt Funeral (Grunts explode after you kill them).

The Meh:

The gameplay itself is simply Halo. If you’ve played one Halo game, you’ve played them all. The Covenant take their normal roles: the Grunts’ heads pop, the Jackals hide, and the Elites are slippery bastards. Brutes and Flood also take the stage, although I miss their Halo 3 behaviors. Not that I was expecting much, so neither should you.

The Bad:

I must say that most of the qualms I have about this game come from the original design, not the remake. The remaster simply improved the way the game looked. Can’t fix what’s originally broken, I suppose. Or out-of date.

My first problem with the game occurred when I attempted to play campaign with more than 2 people. Unbeknownst to me and my friends, the co-op for Halo 2 only supports 2 players, as opposed to the more recent games’ four. This was a huge disappointment for us as the Halo campaigns are just more fun with more people. I remember being in a slight outrage about it, but looking at the game design, 343 was right to leave it as is. The levels are not big enough to support that many players, and having four Spartans running through the map would be no challenge at all.

My second gripe is with the guns. Yes, I know the guns are different in different games, but no assault rifle? You’re killing me, Bungie! I understand that we had the dual-wielding option and shiny new SMGs to make up for it, but it was sorely missed. I’m very glad that it made a comeback in later games. I missed it more than I should.

My third and most frustrating complaint occurs only in legendary mode, which is the highest difficulty of the game. In other games, playing co-op in legendary mode is the only way to do it. One person runs ahead and makes progress, while the other stays behind, serving as a mobile spawn point when the frontman inevitably dies in a bullet(plasma)storm. Unfortunately, that ability is gone in Halo 2 Anniversary. When one person dies, the mission starts over at the last checkpoint. And nothing annoys me more than having to start over with zero progress time and time again. My best friend and I attempted it and didn’t make it past the first mission. My husband and I finished mission one, but it took us a little over two hours of simply dying and restarting checkpoints, over and over and over…

My Take-away:

This game is good. If you’re a Halo fan, this game is great. The cutscenes will amaze you and seeing your favorite characters with glorious HD upgrades will blow your mind. The levels will astound you with a mix of new and nostalgia. You will never miss Johnson so much in your life, and Halo 4 will feel pretty sad in comparison. For a non-Halo player, you may not get the same rosy-cheeks, but it is the best looking original Halo out right now, and has a pretty decent stand-alone story. My recommendation? Play it through once.

Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to sit over here in the corner and impatiently wait for Halo 3’s ten year anniversary and it’s inevitable remaster. Only two more years to go…