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RIP Tales of Link

This post is part of the Blaugust Developer Appreciation Week.

Tales of Link, one of my favourite mobile games, was killed this spring (27 March 2018). I started playing just before its first anniversary and stopped a year and a half later. I could’ve played longer, but I felt there wasn’t a point.

When I first saw Tales of Link, the battle mechanism was new to me. Linking symbols wasn’t the new bit, but that you had to try to create a link as long as possible. You could use skills to transforms one symbol to another and if you managed to get nine of the same symbols, a special attack would unlock for the last hero in your link.

Tales of Link had many of the heroes and villains from the ‘Tales of’- franchise. My experience with the franchise was limited to trailers and wishlists. I did, however, buy the collector’s edition of Tales of Xillia 2. It was a fun way to get to know each character through the events and side stories.

The Events

They had several types of events. Some where score based, others just story based with free heroes or weapons to farm.

Free2Play friendly?

I felt that I could do nearly everything without paying a dime. It was hard to get a top score in the score ranking events. But besides that, it was very doable to play without spending real money. The game had enough opportunities to earn/farm gems (the premium currency) for the draws. You usually knew upfront which events were coming and most players saved up enough for the gacha with their favourite heroes.

I got three five star heroes in one pull. Two of them were highly rated.

Getting 5 star heroes wasn’t a problem. Getting the one you wanted or needed for your set up was always a question. But that’s what gachas are about, right? You never know what you’re going to get. I’ve been fortune with a lot of my pulls, but there were times when I only drew 4 star heroes. There was no guarantee of a 5 star hero in the regular gachas. They later added a coupon for a 5 star draw, but only for certain event gachas.

Why I quit

I loved this game. The heroes were nice, the drop rates were okay, the battle system required thinking and strategic planning, but it still wasn’t enough. After doing a few dozen scoring based events I noticed how impossible it felt to get to the top. Those events were the only ones that had items to reduce CC on your heroes. They were vital in other events to tackle the hardest levels. Without them it felt nearly impossible to finish it once, let alone farm it in the limited time I had.

When I realised this, I knew I had to accept that I was never going to get any good at it, or quit. I hated the feeling that I never had enough items for max limit break. I really wanted those 5 star event exclusives. I did want to be in the top 500. So I quit.

When I read that Bandai Namco were pulling the plug I felt incredibly sad, but I understood why the game wasn’t popular with whales. Of course there was a small group of players who spend huge amounts of money on premium currency and my guess is that those are the players who were always at the top. But getting there required more than just the right heroes. You needed time to farm as well. There was no way to speed that up, or auto-farm events. You still had to start the battle and confirm your win.

I still miss playing this game and the cute characters. The art was incredible, as is always the case with any Tales Of game. Have you played Tales of Link? Or do you know a game like Tales of Link? Please let me know in the comments.

Relaxing with Journey

This post is part of the Blaugust Developer Appreciation Week.

Journey is an indie title for the Playstation. It was praised and loved by many and I played earlier this year for the first time. I felt sick and needed something relaxing to play.

Journey almost feels like a meditative game. Your avatar doesn’t speak and the music is relaxing. The environment is the only thing guiding you through the levels. Exploring the levels more will give your cape a boost which means you can jump/fly higher/longer. I think my cape was longer than I was and the extra boosts were useful in one of the later levels in which you have to ascend a tower.

You begin in a desert with only a few ruins around. That’s where you’re going. Red and gold indicators help you find your way, slowly introducing new mechanics to unlock new areas.

There are some enemies, giant dragon like structures, which point their laser eyes at you. I think I died once when I saw them for the first time.  They’re intimidating enough that you know without anyone telling you, hey, this is a bad guy. I commend the devs for the art direction.

Even though the game has been released years ago, people are still playing. I had no idea that you shared your game with someone else. After a few levels I noticed that my buddy’s cape had different lengths, indicating they were different players. In the later levels, a buddy is crucial for keeping warm. I was lucky to have one who knew what was necessary.At the end of the game, I even received an extra achievement for finishing the game with a partner throughout the whole game.

Everything they say about this game is true. Beautiful art style, great music, a nice story. It only took me a couple of hours, but they were a lot of fun. I definitely recommend it to anyone who hasn’t played it yet.

Stardew Valley Multiplayer

This post is part of the Blaugust Developer Appreciation Week.

Multiplayer is one of the features added to the small farming game Stardew Valley. I played it for half an hour a year ago and I don’t really know why I didn’t play more at the time. I’ve always liked Harvest Moon and Rune Factory on my DS.

Playing the multiplayer with my husband was a lot of fun though. I already explained that he tends to go nuts in terms of efficiency. He seeks out the most profitable crops and upgrades his tools so we can progress the fastest.

We ended up with huge pumpkin during the harvest season

I’m more of a casual player and see what I want to do each day. I don’t tend to plan for festival like he does. Especially not the first year. If we played an RPG, our playstyles would clash, but not Stawdew.

I don’t mind being guided to what needs to be done. The morning routine of watering and harvesting, feeding the animals and checking on produce is one I often take on. My husband usually knows what needs to be done to complete collections, gathering of rocks or fish. (I don’t fish because I suck at it.)

Our playstyles add to each other. We’re in our first winter and we already have stables. I have my two chickens (ones I really wanted) and most of our tools have been upgraded at least once. My husband is thinking of the perfect lay out to start in spring and I’m just keeping on gathering winter berries, wood, stone and ore.

Hopefully we’ll soon have more livestock and a greenhouse.

Love Nikki

This post is part of the Blaugust Developer Appreciation Week.

I recently decided that it was time to purge the games from my phone. I kept two: Pokemon Go and Love Nikki. Pokemon Go is well known, so I want to talk about Love Nikki today.

Love Nikki is a mobile dress up game. Think Barbie, but virtual. Nikki, the main character, ends up in a different world, Miraland. Her new friend Bobo tells her that styling is the most important thing ever and Nikki happens to be good at it.

There’s an adorable manga about Nikki’s arrival and the beginning of her journey on the official Facebook page. If you’re into that, you should read it. I don’t really care for the story in game, but loved the manga. I hope they’ll adapt the rest of the story as well.

The whole game is about dressing up Nikki. They recently added more skin tones and unisex outfits as well, so you don’t have to dress up as a girl. For the completion of the story you do have to follow the theme of the battle. Yes, you actually battle it out, fashion style.

Imagine a side by side catwalk. You show your stuff and use certain skills to influence the judges on the scores. Certain items can give you a very high score, while others are just unfit for the theme. Momo, the cute cat like creature, will help you out with a few tips if you need it. The battles aren’t about looking good, but are purely score based.

There are other modes in which your look does matter. In the Style Competition, other players will judge your ability to style based on a specific theme. Below you can see my most recent submission. At this time I was ranked 251 of all the players which is the highest I’ve ever been rated and now I’ve dropped to be in the top 1%.

The PvP mode is the Stylist’s Arena. This is score based again. The battles are much like the regular ones, but the opponent is a player with their set outfit and skills. In this battle you can’t active your skills yourself.

This game is addictive. Of course it has micro transactions and most events require you to spend gems (the currency bought with real money) if you want all of the new clothes, but it’s easy to farm gems. You don’t have to spend money to do well in this game. Some outfits can only be bought with real money, so if you’re not a completionist, this is definitely fun and F2P friendly.

Gaming and Spouses

One of the great things about the Discord for Blaugust is that we share ideas and talk about the things we like. Most of us game, some more than others. But our spouses/significant others don’t always game. Some never play a game at all.

Here is the story my husband and I and our relationship with gaming.

My husband and I got to know each other through League of Legends when he decided to join his colleagues for some ARAM fun. They were my friends. I knew he was a gamer, but I had no idea what kind of gamer he was.

I later learned that he was part of several Counter Strike teams when he was in his teens. This was before Twitch and before esports was big. Prices consisted of several hundred euros or merchandise from hardware sponsors. Nothing fancy. No tens of thousands of people watching the finals. But he was on there. Playing finals against others on the big screen with only the people from the LAN parties present as an audience.

Going back even further, he was the small boy who played flight simulators late at night/early in the morning with Americans and Canadians (guess where he learned English). He played on consoles with his brother and sister and he still has his old Game Boy.

He still games, more than me, and I give him the time to do so. It’s his main source of relaxation after working all day. He usually focuses on one game for a while before moving on the next. I remember he played Factorio religiously, planning everything perfectly and rebuilding assembly lines for more efficient work. He made whole spreadsheets for his game development in Game Dev Tycoon. I admire his dedication to his games.

When Stardew Valley had the multiplayer update, we decided to give it a go and play together again. Friday and Saturday evening are my game nights after Shiro goes to bed. That’s the only time we can game together. Now with the No Man’s Sky Next update, we might add that to our list as well. I really enjoyed discovering the world alone, but it seems more fun to do so together.

101 Goals, 1001 Days: Learning Japanese

I’ve been watching anime for a long time and with Netflix including more foreign programs, I’ve been watching more drama shows and reality series as well. Through watching that, I’ve learned some basic Japanese phrase, but it’s not nearly enough to survive a trip to Japan.

When I first met my brother’s girlfriend she was impressed with the phrases I knew. Most of what I know are the oneliners from anime and manga.

Ohayou, konbanwa, hajimemashite, aishiteru, oyasuminasai.

That’s nothing special, right? That’s why I’m slowly expanding my vocabulary with Duolingo. It’s become easier for me to recognize words in sentences, although the sentence structure is still hard to understand. Grammar (no matter what language) has always been my weak point.

I don’t think Duolingo is the perfect tool to learn Japanese. After the first basic lessons, you will learn harder words and phrases which use those words. But they don’t talk about the words used to connect nouns. So the one thing that I’m struggling with, they don’t explain.

Luckily, through my interest, I’ve already bought some books on learning Japanese. Combining these source has been a great way to increase my mastery of the language and I notice that when I’m watching Japanese series, it’s easier to recognize what they’re saying. I still need subtitles to confirm what they say, but I can look away for a second and know that I haven’t missed much.

I hope that by the time we go to Tokyo I will know how to ask my way, understand directions, know how to order food and read a menu.

The Path I’ve Walked

This post appeared on Narratess first. I wrote and posted it on my thirtieths birthday, last June. I thought it would a great get-to-know-me post since I don’t think many readers here know about this part of me.

Turning thirty means different things for different people. Some are scared of it, getting old. Others see it as their second twenties, but with more wisdom. And there’s a third group that mostly confused about how they should feel about thirty. I turned thirty today and I have no idea what it means to me, but I do know that the past decade has contributed the most to who I am today.

Life is nothing without its ups and downs. Highlights are earning a bachelor and a master degree, finding a full-time job, quitting said job, have stories and articles published, becoming a dog mom, and getting married. Low points are getting my chronic pain diagnosis, getting hit by a car and rejection letters. (I kept adding things to the highlights, which is a good sign.)

For my writing career, these were the years that I knew what kind of writing I wanted to do. During my years at the university, I received a lot of criticism on my writing. It wasn’t academic enough and I struggled with that the most when I was writing my master thesis. That was also the moment that the pain attacks began, so I was distracted most of the time as well. Academic writing wasn’t for me, especially in the humanities. The extra courses I picked during my bachelor were for the computer science, linguistics or history department. All of them were more relaxed about writing style. These were the subjects where I got high grades and also the subjects that still interest me to this day.

I still enjoyed writing during my university years. Most of my stories were beginnings or summaries of stories that would come to me at weird times. Those moments started in high school, but I never managed to quite finish a story. I wanted to develop my writing since I knew I was lacking skill. I started a blog about the games I played. I even started writing fanfiction for one of my favourite games, Guild Wars 2. The fanfics were probably the first real stories I finished.

Writing on my blog actually led to my first paid writing gig at MMOgames. I had a column about Guild Wars 2 for a while, but it was hard to keep up with my fulltime job and gaming. My continued struggle with chronic pain had me drained most of the days. I didn’t play enough to keep the column going. My involvement in the Guild Wars 2 community led to an invite for a short story in a fanzine for charity. Raven and I both worked on the fanzine with the wonderful Mel Sayre at the helm. It was a great project to work on with 70 other very talented people, artists and writers alike.

The job that I landed was much easier than I had anticipated and I managed to get my tasks done on time. I used the free time I had to do creative work. I wrote short stories and worked on a game design document. That’s where I got my energy from. My creative juices kept flowing and I needed an outlet, but once I opened the tap, they kept coming. Writing fiction (and using a fountain pen and paper specifically) had become therapeutic. If I wasn’t able to take that time for myself, I would have burned out. The nearly two-hour daily commute and the increasing stress from a management with no sense of leadership were enough for my health to become worse. Quitting was my best option. It was one of the hardest decisions to make and also the easiest one. Health comes first. My husband told me to take this chance and pursue my dream of a writing career. I launched Narratess while I was still working and wrote one article a week to post.

One and a half year later and I’m still blogging here. My selection of short stories is being read by the first readers and I hope that soon I can share more information about my first book release! I’ve used my twenties to realise what I wanted to write and do my words to get to a level worthy of publishing. My first book release will be in my thirties and it won’t be the last. I’m sure I’ll need a few years to learn more about publishing and book marketing, but I’ve got time to learn.

Learning Calligraphy

My interest for calligraphy isn’t new. In my early childhood my fascination with fountain pens and calligraphy was already apparent to my mother who bought me a Parker calligraphy set and a book on popular calligraphy (cursive, not hand lettering).

I still have the book, although I’m not sure where the pens are. I now have a wide range of fountains and dip pens with various widths. I have a few brush pens that I can use for practicing line variation. No flex nibs yet, but that might still be too advanced for me. I need to learn my letters first.

I hope to get better at it so I can make my own cards with inspiring quotes. Even though I have learning calligraphy as a goal for my 101 Goals, 1001 Days challenge, I know that this is a skill that takes years to master. It would be weird if I mastered it fully in three years.

Below are a few pictures of calligraphy and handwriting practice. I’m by no means any good (average at best), but I’m working hard to get better. Follow me on Instagram to see more pictures of calligraphy practice, bookish pictures and fountain pens.

Planning My Tokyo Trip

It’s been a long time wish to go to Japan and my brother gave us the tickets as a wedding gift. His girlfriend is Japanese and she even offered to show us around. I’m really looking forward to the trip, but we still have to save  up for accommodation, transfers and public transport and food. But my shopping list is growing as well.

Right now I’m looking at what I want to do and see. My husband is okay with everything. He will let me guide him to all the awesomeness of Japan. We’ll probably only go to Tokyo for now (we don’t want to leave our dog with my parents for too long).

Places

Karaoke and visiting an arcade are high on my list. I know the guys won’t like the first, but they’ll enjoy the second. Tokyo Tower is a must see, since chances are slim that I’ll ever go to Paris to see the real one. Tokyo has another tower, Skytree. It also has an observation deck, but I’m more interested in the shopping area around it. A Pokemon Center is located there and there’s an aquarium. I always love going to one when I can.

I want to go to Asakusa as well, the more traditional side of Tokyo. The temple there is a huge tourist attraction because it’s big and beautiful. See how crowded it is?

I want to see the traditional and the modern Japan, so a visit to Akihibara is a must. Maybe we’ll go to an arcade hall there.

Food

Most people will say that you just have to have sushi while you’re in Japan. We’re no fish eaters though, so we’ll skip the sushi bars. I’d like to go to an izakaya and have curry rice, I want to taste delicious ramen, and sweet snacks.

I watched Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman, a Japanese show about an office worker who loves to check out desserts around Tokyo. All shops in this show are real and I hope to visit some of them. In particular the parfait shop in Shinjuku and maybe the pancake shop.

In one of the episodes Kantaro is craving a melon parfait, and my, does it look delicious! All of the fruits are high quality and are served with whipped cream and/or ice cream. The prices are high, but it’s worth it. There’s almost always a line for these delicious treats.

From fourtrive.com

In another episode Kantaro wants to eat pancakes. We have pancakes here but the Japanese pancakes are very different. Look at how fluffy they are! I’d soak them in maple syrup before I eat. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

Shops

My fountain pen hobby is expensive. One of the pros of going to the Japan will be cheaper prices for the Japanese brands. The Iroshizuku ink is half the price of what I would pay here. There are also limited editions which aren’t sold outside of the Tokyo stores or Japan.

Tokyu Hands is very high one my list. People say it’s the place to get stationery. They have everything from vintage to cute to fancy. There are a ton of Youtube videos with stationery hauls. I could watch them all day, but it won’t be good for my wallet. I’m definitely setting a budget for Tokyu Hands so I can’t spend too much.

Itoya is another store for pen and paper lovers. After the renovation a few years ago, the look of the shop changed to a modern style and dedicated each floor to its own theme. The third floor is probably the place where I’ll spend most of my time, the one with over 2000 fountain pens.

This is just the beginning of what I want to do. I still have to look into things a little more and learn basic Japanese to I can find my way around when we’re just with the two of us. Have you ever been to Tokyo or have tips for travelling there? Please leave them in a comment below!

Makeover versus Makeunder

Netflix has all kinds of shows, but the shows that I enjoy the most are the makeover and makeunder shows. Queer Eye and 100% Hotter are two of such shows. In Queer Eye the Fab Five give men a make over, some straight, some gay, but all turn out fabulous. In 100% hotter a team of a stylist, make up artist and hairdresser give people with extreme looks a makeunder.

The reason why the participants agree to their nomination and selection is different for each one. In Queer Eye the men often want to do something back for their partner (look nice, take them on a date) or someone special (mother, future girlfriend). In 100% Hotter participants often want to look more presentable for the workplace or less embarrassing to their family members.

100% Hotter for a makeunder

In 100% Hotter the participants are nominated by a friend or family member because they think they need a little help with their style. A few even nominate themselves. The participants have extreme looks which make it hard to find a job or be part of society. Daniel, Melissa and Grace are the styling team who takes care of them.

The incredible team takes care of them, physically and mentally. The participants are coached to see themselves in a more natural way, without all the makeup and big hair. This helps in the process of becoming more like their true self.

Only a few participants reverted back to their usual ways, while the others learned from their 100% Hotter experience.

Queer Eye for a makeover

If you haven’t heard of Queer Eye, you better watch it now. I’m talking about the Netflix reboot with Tan, Karamo, Jon, Antoni and Bobby. Bring tissues. I binged both seasons as soon as they came on the streaming service and I just can’t get enough.

Each of the men have their own area of expertise, just like in the original show. They’re also all their own character and all of them are pure love. The Fab Five transform not only the participant, but also their house and help out in the kitchen. Karamo is doing coaching in the areas needed. For some it’s dating advice, for others it’s a heart to heart talk about coming out.

Each participant has their own touching story. I remember the talk between Karamo and Cory, a police officer, about police brutality and how he, as a parent, experiences it. It was so real and both parties talked about it in a respectful manner.

The whole series has these little nuggets of wisdom and touching moments. The makeover isn’t just in regards of the participant’s look, but their whole life. Coming out is a big step and not something you can undo. But also getting more in touch with yourself after undergoing surgery to become your real gender, is life changing. Some wives got their man back, the one they fell in love with years ago. Others were proposed to. If you need to watch something feel-good, this is an excellent choice.

I like both series in which it’s not just dressing up or dressing under, but that the teams are influencing the participant’s life in a positive way.  What is your favourite makerover or makeunder series?

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Guild Wars 2 Fiction

Miira Lightbringer:
Fried Moa Steak
Quiet Before the Storm

Young Miira:
Tail Tugging Part 1
A Promise Made Part 2
Night Falls Part 3
Grawling Preparations Part 4
Badazar Incarnated Part 5
Graduation Part 6 - Final

Savyrius Belain:
We Meet Again...

Naella Ysangwan:
Dogs and Ogres

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