2020: What a year…

Oh man, where to begin. Maybe I should start at the end for a change. Like why I’m writing this post. So much has happened, and I know I’m hardly the only one who had a tough year. But I know my experiences are different from most people. COVID-19 hasn’t changed my life as much as for others. My husband was home more which was great. We work well together so being together 24/7 is no problem at all.

My biggest challenges were my health and writing. In March, my neck injury came back and hit me like a truck. I couldn’t think, focus, or do much with screens at all. That’s a bit of a problem when you have to edit your work. After the summer, I finally felt better. The exercises I got from the physical therapist helped me a lot, although I still get headaches regularly. It’ll take time before it’s gone.

Three weeks after that, the joints in my wrist dislocated and the cartilage in between became inflammed. The doctor saw nothing wrong and only gave me pain killers for the pain. When it happened, I thought I was going to faint from the pain. I was on the verge. This was one of the instances where I was happy my husband was home and he helped me to control the pain.

With one hand impaired and a head refusing to work like it’s supposed to, it’s hard to be a writer. Especially when your publishing schedule has been flipped because of circumstances. I wanted to publish the second and third book of the Infernal Contracts trilogy, but instead I relaunched Devil’s Deal (out now and available for 99 cents for another week) with the help of a professional editor, and the second book is with him now.

I had no time to recover completely. I had to write, I had to type. Even if my head and my hand were in pain. And that’s something I have had to get used to, to be able to work while in pain. Even when that pain is a seven on a scale of one to ten.

So no gaming for me. I had to save my screen time and my keyboard time for my books. I reduced my time on social media and discord, only focusing on what was in front of me, what had to get done. So now I was cut off from the real world because of several lockdowns and general caution because I might still be at high-risk if I catch COVID-19, and my online social life was reduced as well. Still, I didn’t feel lonely. I used to feel lonely a lot when I was younger. I also cared a lot more about what other people thought of me. I lived for their approval. I no longer do though. Maybe that helped me become more mentally resilient. And probably having my best friend with me is a big factor.

I don’t know how active I’ll be with blogging here starting the new year because my wrist still isn’t completely healed and I’ve got two books to finish before I can breath again. But I hope to be more active in the communities I’m part of. Read more blogs again, comment, get back on Discord and Twitter. Who knows.

Finger crossed that 2021 will be better in many ways.

Blaugust Promptapalooza: Share Characters That Tell Us Something About You

Welcome to a very different Blaugust! We’ve got prompts all month and today it’s my turn. This year we’re doing a mega prompt train organised by Belghast. Bel gave me the following prompt: Tell us about some of your favorite protagonist/s and explain why.

It’s a good prompt, but I’m going to change it slightly. I want to talk about characters in which you can recognize yourself or parts of yourself. The reason why I changed it is I play a lot of RPGs and like to create my own characters. So I wouldn’t even know how to answer the original prompt that well. Even when I look outside of games. The ones that are memorable to me are the ones I identify with, or at least to some degree.

Book Characters

Lizzie from Brace Yourself by S E Smart and Giovanna from The Ice Cream Parlor by Isabella May.

Both these characters are dear to me. Lizzie’s challenges are so very familiar, all the chronic pain, chronic illness, and being disregarded by the people whose help she needed the most. It was my first time hearing about the PIP journey, an application process most disabled people in the UK have to go through to get more financial support. I almost didn’t believe it was real if it weren’t for my own experiences with doctors and assessments. I felt so much for her. But even despite all those challenges, Lizzie still had her sense of humor, got out of bed every morning, took care of her son as a single mom, and found love.

Giovanna or Gigi is another story altogether. She’s a victim of a family feud in the making for years. She thought she would inherit the ice cream store her father had run all those years, the store where she worked in her spare hours, the one where she learned all the secrets about making delicious ice. But it’s her sister who gets the store. She goes on a trip to Italy, the country where she was born, to discover all the delicious flavors and create new ones. It’s Gigi’s attitude to life and everything that I admire. In my own struggles, I recognize the fierceness that Gigi shows as well. She’s still kind and caring, but she’ll drop you the second you betray her. No wasted time on people who don’t deserve it. Gigi chases her dreams and overcomes every obstacles thrown in her way.

Movie character

I’m sure people will sigh as I say this: Mulan and Pocahontas, Disney princesses. And specifically the animated Disney representations. Let’s not talk about the history surrounding these women, or what happens to them. Let’s talk about who they are in the Disney movies and what they meant to me.

I’m tanned, thanks to my Indonesian dad, and always looked different than most of my peers. I grew up in a white-dominant environment, so when movies came out with coloured girls, specifically bad ass girls who could save a country/their tribe. Seeing them have such agency and not be dumbed down a secundary role was an eye opener. I started dreaming about sword fighting like Mulan (which I did learn later), and Pocahontas taught me to be open minded to other cultures. Even if someone is different, that doesn’t mean they’re bad. As long as you listen, you’ll find you have more in common than you think.

Game characters

This is a hard one. In most RPGs my choices make the character and the story consists of events that happen and how you respond to it. But I can’t talk about memorable game characters without mentioning Alistair.

Alistair is definitely the man that I set my standards too. Not because of his looks, but because how vulnerable he was. He wasn’t just a stubborn hardass who wanted to follow the rules. He also had moment where he was a big baby. And he respected the player. Even if he didn’t agree, he wouldn’t burn you down. I honestly wish more men were like him.

Another character is Princess Elise from My World, My Way. The spoiled princess has everything she wants, except for the boy of her dreams. He turns out to be an adventurer and she tries out the adventurer lifestyle. The gameplay is amazing, but I really like how the spoiled princess dares to go outside of her comfort zone to find the thing she wants the most.

This is a lesson we all need to learn at some point. Most things we want the most are outside of our comfort zone and we have to be brave enough to take that step outside. No matter how spoiled you are. You have to make do with what you have. Find your strengths and they will help you conquer the obstacles. In Princess Elise’s case, crying a lot convinced enemies to drop more gold.

So here’s my prompt for you today: Tell me about your most memorable characters, and which ones do you identify with most?

If you’re taking up this prompt, drop a link in the comments and I’ll add it to the list below!

Next up in the Promptapalooza is Paeroka of Nerdy Bookahs. Check there tomorrow for the next writing prompt!

Long Live The Queen! (Turn 271 – 280)

My fourth reign and it’s probably the most boring one. You could probably skip reading this and not miss anything. Sometimes Civ games have these lulls in which barely anything happens and that’s okay.

Paeroka handed me the scepter after the war ended, so it’s up to me to keep (re)building our kingdom.

Check out Naithin’s dedicated page for coverage of each of our turns.

There won’t be any screenshots in this post due to multiple issues. Still, I didn’t want to stop or hold up the game. Screenshots will be back next time.

Turn 271

Opera and Ballet boosted. Leeds is working on Sewage and Adab is constructing a Commercial hub. Catherine demands gold, I say no.

Turn 272

I killed off the barbarians near Sheffield. Eridu is starting production for a granary. Cleo wants a trade, but no. You’re not getting our coal.

Turn 273

Civil Engineering boosted. Rapid Deployment boosted. Stoke upon Trent production research lab. Sheffield repair lighthouse. Teddy denounces us.

Turn 274

Nationalism is done and I starting Opera and Ballet now which should be done in five turns. Start on a research lab in London. A new Campus is being built in the mountains near Plymouth. Pedro wants more money, and what do we say to him? No way, Jose. And no, I don’t care his name is actually Pedro.

Turn 275

Steam power is done. Research started on the Radio and shouldn’t take too long.

Turn 276

Norwich is training a new trader, because I have no idea what to do there.

Turn 277

I bought horses near Ur so Cleo wouldn’t get them. Sheffield is done with the repairs to the light house so we’re going to build a monument. Ur is getting barracks despite the newly acquired horses.

Turn 278

Opera and Ballet is done and I continue with the other boosted civ, Civil engineering. Leeds is getting a Research lab. I sent Envoys to Preslav and we’re their Suzerain again. Gil denounces us again. Maybe he wants more war?

Turn 279

Radio is done and Mass Media is boosted. Electricity is being researched. I gave the order to build a University in Bradford. Aluminum is found near Leeds.

Turn 280

Not much to be done. A few military units are outside of the barbarian camp to the South and the next ruler can defeat them.

I focused my production on getting more science and gold. Gold makes everything easier in the end. We can buy buildings in the cities we captured, we can purchase units, and maybe even parts for our science victory. We’re sitting on a big pile at the moment so my only advice to the next ruler is: Don’t spend it all at once.

Krikket is up next and the save game can be found here.

This must be the most boring post of all the Long Live The Queen posts…

I Failed Doing My Wrap-Ups

Ok, I failed. I haven’t done a monthly wrap up since April. My mood at the end of May was extremely distracted. I finished my re-read of my comfort series and binged on Beck, the manga about a Japanese indie band. The manga had 36 volumes and the series 15 books. That’s a lot of reading. I wasn’t really in the mood to do anything else but read. No gaming and no writing. At least, not more than I had to. It also didn’t feel like I had accomplished anything. So I skipped May.

Then at the end of June, I was preparing myself mentally to start on Camp Nano and my 30k words goal. I passed the halfway mark already and doing great. But I still don’t feel like writing blog posts. Not more than necessary. I still did a few, but the less I had to do, the better. So no wrap up in June either. July probably won’t have here either. I’m going to write an evaluation of Camp Nano on Narratess, but that’ll be it. I haven’t done much reading lately besides the ARCs I promised to review.

I still haven’t been playing much. Not even the Nonary games that I was so excited about. Doing more than a thousand words a day is tiring, especially when my body is still not where I want it to be and my diet adjustment. I’m losing weight by kilos already. It’s good and although less gradual than the last time, I’m not losing too much in too short a time. My aim is still to do one workout a week which probably helps to burn calories and building muscle.

No wonder I’m overwhelmed. Then there is the book that I still need to edit before I send it to a real editor, and I need to outline my next projects. There’s a lot of writing stuff to do, even without looking at post-production in the publishing process.

After this month, I’ll still be drafting the last book in my current trilogy while trying to edit the previous once. That made me decide to skip Blaugust again. I’ll still be mentoring in the Discord channel, but I won’t be posting a blog a day. Maybe a few random ones will appear though.

Trying Out Demos: Cris Tales and Cardaclysm

After all the streams during the Summer of Gaming, I added a few games to my wishlist. Cris Tales and Cardaclysm already had demos on Steam so I decided to try them out.

Cris Tales

My husband immediately said it was game a for me based on the art style and storytelling. I loved the idea of being able to see the past, the present, and the future. It’s certainly something I haven’t seen before.

The first part of the demo is much like the trailer. Lots of story, Lots of pretty art, cute, little quests to give some life to the story.

Then I had the chance to try out the battle system. The basics of attacking remind me of the turn-based fighting of the classic j-rpgs. There is a timeline at the top to keep track of the battle order. You can pick between your attacks, defense, and items. If you press the button again at the right time you can get a critical hit or block an attack.

Sounds good, right?

Well, there is one big fight. What I saw as the boss fight. It took me over half an hour because I just can’t hit the buttons at the right time. I didn’t finish it… I’m not sure how close I was to beating the boss as there are my HP bars. But if this is the battle system, it’s not worth it for me. I’m not going to be frustrated for an hour knowing I could’ve finished if I could react better to visual clues. I’m not.

That’s why I like demos. If I didn’t try this game, I would’ve bought it and stopped playing after 20 minutes. It would’ve been wasted money. I know Steam does refunds, but I also know that I will want to try again later. Maybe when circumstances are different. But the pessimist in me already thinks that I won’t be able to do it ever.

So I’m not going to get this game.


Cardaclysm is another game that stood out to me. I love card games and I really like everything I saw in trailer. I even loved everything I played.

The card game itself is pretty straightforward. If you’ve played Magic: the Gathering or Hearthstone before, you’ll figure out the game super quick. Then there’s the overworld navigation. Your avatar walks through the world and you’ll find buffs, items, and enemies. Everything (as far as I experienced anyway) is set.

When you find fight the last enemy, you’ll hear something roaring. There’s a big skeleton knight chasing you and you have to reach the end of the level or fight him.

Having things chase me (the first bit you won’t even see him, just audio) is bad for my blood pressure. I know that’s the intention. But I don’t really need nightmare triggers in my games. I actively avoid my nightmare triggers.

I love everything about this game so far, except this. If there was some way to get rid of it (as a friendly/peaceful option), I’d play it in a heartbeat. But for now, I won’t buy it.

Steam Sales Pickup: Zero Escape bundle

It’s been a long time since I picked up something during a Steam sale, but this game has been on my wishlist for a long time and I missed out in the sale last time (by a few hours too). I wanted to play it then, but I couldn’t because I got the time wrong. Sucks, so now I put it in my cart on the first day and bought it on the second when the store wasn’t overrun by a horde of elephants.

I already played a bit of the first game, 999. I already beat it long ago on my DS, but I want to play it again because I forgot a lot of the story. I hope it won’t take too long and I can start the second game soon.

The first time I started 999 I thought it was just another visual novel. Nothing too exciting. It soon changed when the first person died and was confirmed again with the first bad ending.

I didn’t mind getting that bad ending. It just made me more curious about the rest of the story. Lots of deaths and puzzle solving later, I got to the end, but it still left me with so many questions.

I’ll share my thoughts again as I play through the series. To be continued!

#SummerOfGaming: So Many Streams

Whelp! I’m used to June being centered around games, reveals, trailers, conferences, and streams, but this year — even without a real E3 — it’s explosive.

There are so many streams, I can hardly keep up. So thank you, Belghast, for making this list with all the streams and links. I’ll come back to it and make sure I watch all the streams I’ve missed so far.

I’ve watched most of them so far and I’m seeing a lot of repeated content, but the added gameplay/interview segments are amazing. It’s nice to see gameplay played by the hosts instead of someone who’s already played the game for 100+ hours because they need to test everything. I want to see players experiencing the game as newbies. Because I will be a newbie, and I will fail miserably most of the time.

It’s like seeing clothes on normal-sized models instead of size zero or two models with no boobs or butt.

So let’s talk about trailers. The streams are filled with them, but will they actually sell me any games?

What makes a good trailer (imo)?

Disclaimer: This is all my opinion and should not be taken as ‘this is the gold standard’.

Most trailers (not teasers) should include at least some of the following:

  • In-game footage
  • Gameplay
  • An introduction to the player character
  • An introduction to the setting
  • A question or hook

I put ‘in-game footage’ first. Why? Because we want to know what we can expect visually. Games are still a visual medium and thus the art style and graphics can heavily influence our decision to (not) play a game.

Gameplay! I can’t stand trailers without gameplay. That’s what we’re going to do for, who knows, 60+ hours? I need to see the combat system (if there is one) because I can handle some better than others. I need to know if it’s first or third-person. Because I can’t play anything first-person and thus the game would be a not-buy if it is.

Every good piece of marketing needs a hook. We as an audience need to care, need to have a reason for wanting to play. I wouldn’t necessarily say the question or hook is a call-to-action, but it’s part of the sales funnel. With a dozen space-related games announced across multiple genres, why would I care about your game?

This is where the introduction to the character(s) and setting comes in. Maybe this is enough to convince some players. Like the teaser for Cyberpunk 2077. I’ve heard so many players loving the setting, and most of them didn’t even care about what kind of game it was (or would be).

For some games, the character and setting, with a small bit of gameplay are enough to show what the game is about. Think about Journey. There is no textual story. It’s all told through narrative design. It makes you wonder, and that is the hook.

Solar Ash had the same kind of vibe. There was no need to introduce the story. The character moving through the world and interacting said more than words could about what kind of game it is. Based on the trailer, I would try it.

Trailers or teasers?

I saw two trailers, Project Athia and Star Wars: Squadron, which only featured video segments, although they say in-game footage. You get a sense of the graphics you can expect. (Please don’t. We all know how deceptive these things can be.) But we see nothing of the combat system, UI, or what’s actually something we will see outside of the cutscenes. I wouldn’t say these are trailers, they’re teasers. They want us to become curious about the game, but it’s not made to sell us the game.

I’m curious about what we’ll see when they’ll reveal more about Squadron later this week, but I’m not holding my breath about any new info on Project Athia.

Long Live The Queen! Turn 191 – 200

Here we go! Round three. Empires are expanding and we’re sandwiched between them. Borders are closer than ever before and I’m almost sad that all nations are still active. Won’t someone start killing yet? I don’t think we’ll start a war though. At least, not yet.

Check out Naithin’s dedicated page for coverage of each of our turns.

First few turns were uneventful. Except for Pedro’s demands and I laugh at his childish behavior. Please, sir, you’re an embarrassment to your country.

Turn 193

Medieval Faires completes and I start the research on Guilds, something every game needs, right? A wat is now in production in Leeds. I remember someone saying wats are good, so I thought it was a good opportunity to build one. More barbarian sniff hounds are at our borders.

Turn 194

Siege Tactics finished. Mass production is being researched now, only three turns. I’m all for quick research completion.

America wants sugar (hey, no surprise there), and for a total of 71 gold (of his 172 gold), I’ll gladly accept. I’ll gladly take all your moneys, America.

Turn 195

I buy the mercury patch near Leeds and guide the settlers to their new living place to the South. I already sent some military units to scout ahead and make sure the area is clear. I’ll keep at least one of them close for the time being.

Turn 197

Mass production finishes. Time for some Astronomy. Who doesn’t like looking at the stars.

Turn 198

Sheffield is founded and I start working on a granary. More projects finish and I assign new ones. A market in Bristol, an armory in Stoke, and a Campus in Bradford.

Turn 199

Gilgamesh declares war to Cleo. I don’t know how unexpected this is, but it might be good to have those deplete each others resources.

Cleo wants mercury, our newly obtained resource in exchange for coffee and gold. She also want our alliance, but she’s just gone to war with Gilgamesh. So I don’t really want to.

Then Gilgamesh is saying “Hi friend! I’ve got a good offer for you today.” Well, no thanks buddy. I’m not getting into your war.

Everyone wants mercury today. Catherine also wants some and offers gold and open borders, just on her side. Even though it’s not much gold, I want to accept because I want to bleed her dry. 4 extra gold per turn for 30 turns is a lot.

Turn 200

This helps a lot because Sheffield is next to a natural wonder, which I want to buy. So here goes. Tsingy de Bemaraha is ours now. There is another mercury pile next to the city border, so I have a feeling that one will be ours soon too. Especially with the high demand.

London finishes up a trader and I can work on another knight. Birmingham is going to work on a shrine now.

Krikket, you can find the save game here.

Trying Something (old) New

The title is probably a bit confusing but you’ll understand in a second. Four years ago, my now-husband asked me to marry him. Three years ago, I was one week away from getting married. I wanted to look nice in my dress and it pushed me to lose more weight.

I was overweight and the weight was hurting my joints, even more than just my regular joint pain. So losing weight would benefit me greatly. It wouldn’t be easy though since exercise was (and is) a problem because of health issues. So I would need to adjust my diet. That would be the easiest way for me. Reducing the calorie intake to below what I use a day would results in weight loss, regardless of what the calories are.

But just eating 1500 calories of Twinkies wouldn’t be good for me. So instead of going on crash diet, I wanted to alter my eating habits to more healthy foods, dishes, and recipes. I couldn’t do this alone and signed up for Weight Watchers, just for a year, so I would be ready for my wedding and then continue on my own.

Then at my supposedly last fitting session, the seamstress told me I lost too much weight and couldn’t lose anymore. She could take it in, but only if I stopped the process would it fit well on my big day.

Stopping the weight loss process means eating a lot of bad stuff again. The things you swore you wouldn’t eat again. Or not this often. So the week before my wedding I ate cake, cookies, pasta, pizzas again. I love it. Still do. On my wedding day, I ate a lot of delicious food and had a big breakfast at the hotel the next morning.

After that I never went back to the diet I strictly maintained for a year. I still didn’t eat as much as I did before, but the snacks I consumed were less healthy. I had bigger portions. And pasta was a regular again.

I gained weight again, and while I’m not as heavy as I was before, I do need to lose weight again. Preferably another 20 kilos, like I did before. If I lose that much I still won’t be as the preferred weight for my height but I don’t care. I have the size and shape I want to be in my mind. This is what I need to do.

Since three years have passed, I’ve largely forgotten what I ate, what my food habits looked like. I know low-carb recipes helped me and made me feel better, so I’m looking into those. Even just replacing one meal a day with a low-carb version will help me. That, and having a hard look at my snacking habits.

That’s what I’m doing right now. Looking for new recipes to help me with my new diet, while still eating enough anti-inflammatory foods. Good thing these circles overlap in a Venn diagram.

Guild Wars 2: 13k Achievement Points!

I hit a milestone: 13.000 achievement points! That’s quite something, right? Well, I don’t know. I think you can have around 40k achievement points if you’ve done every single achievement in the game, ever. It’s a lot. My 13k is small in comparison. Especially considering I’ve been playing since the three-day head start.

Still, it’s a milestone, and Guild Wars 2 rewards accordingly. Some gold, a nice skin and a permanent 1% boost to magic find. I’ll take increased magic find any day.

New mount skin

I got a Black Lion Key to open a Black Lion Chest and got the above pretty skin. It’s the Adventure Box Raptor skin that’s a rare drop now. I was lucky enough to get it. Getting a 2000 gem skin is pretty nice. It’s pretty cute, and glitchy. It’s my second mount skin, with my Stardust jackal skin. My other mounts are all default, but with a pretty dye job. I’d love to have a nice skin for all of them but they’re so expensive. So I’ll have to cross my fingers whenever I get wardrobe unlock. Unlocking more other skins will increase my chance of getting a mount skin.

And Then It Started

Or ended. The problems on the EU servers started, and the enjoyment I felt getting back into the game, achieving my goals, exploring new places, all of it was gone. It started with the rollback on the 12th. Then followed a 24+ hour maintenance period. They fixed the rollback although they couldn’t recover the progress people made between the rollback and the maintenance.

When the servers came up again, the login server was flooded, which doesn’t surprise me. What did surprise me is that most players still had lag issues days later. Yesterday I wanted to walk through Crystal Desert, but the lag was so bad the random mobs killed me before I moved 10 meters. It was insane. Unplayable.

And then this morning I saw a post on reddit about more login issues. People can’t connect to the game. Again. Around the same time as the rollback issues last week. What is happening?

As of right now, ArenaNet hasn’t put out an official statement about what went wrong and how they went about fixing it. But if things like this keep happening, I think they should tell us more than just “we’re aware and working on it”. If they can’t fix these issues and don’t communicate well, they will absolutely loose players.

I planned on getting the deluxe or collector’s edition of the third expansion, but now I’m not so sure. I really wanted to do another 25 BL chest opening to see what I got, but that’s not going to happen. Unless I start farming keys. I’m curious but also a little anxious about what ArenaNet is going to do now. I want to believe in them, give them the benefit of the doubt, but it’s getting harder. And other games are calling me. One day I will not look back.

I wrote the first half of this post before the rollback happened, so excited to finally get my 13k AP. And then it was gone. All the effort I put into it. Other people lost legendaries, map completion, newly made characters, and whole accounts. It sucked. Both for the players and ArenaNet, but it seems we’re not passed it yet. I hope these server issues stop before the next episode hits. Who knows.

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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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Diablo 3 Battle Tag: Endalia#1709
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