Sunday Serenade: Genshin Impact, Tiffany, and more!

Time for another Sunday morning dose of random songs that I’ve been listening to this past week! Welcome to Sunday Serenade — now let’s crank the jams up with… 

“Bustling Afternoon of Mondstadt” from Genshin Impact — Such an amazing soundtrack, and this piece stuck out as a particularly Stardew Valley-like theme to me.

“Neo-SF Strut” from 2064: Read Only Memories — A groovy retro-themed track.

“Gotta Be Love” by Tiffany — Don’t mind me, just reliving the ’80s over here…

“In the Rain” by Tomas Lu — A soothing, entrancing track. Would be great for certain moods!

“Toxic Dump” from The Ooze — Aww yeah, there’s that gritty Genesis sound!

“A Thousand Miles” by Luca Schreiner — A fun twist on an old classic.

I’m going on an MMO rerolling frenzy

You ever look at yourself, at what you’re doing, and think, “You’re so crazy! But I love you! Go for it?” The observer side of me has been doing that this whole past week as my gamer side is getting downright wacky. The reason for this split mind is that I’ve been rerolling characters left and right lately.

I’ve started over in WoW Classic. I’ve made a World of Warcraft mage to level (a first for me). I’ve even rerolled as a Necromancer in Elder Scrolls Online, and I’m contemplating a brand-new LOTRO character too.

Maybe it’s the new year finally kicking in? A desire for fresh starts and shaking things up?

I don’t think there’s any shame in rerolling. Most of the time it doesn’t pan out (which is why you should never delete your high level characters, kids — you’ll regret that), but once in a while… once in a while it does. Once in a while you’ll discover an appreciation for a new class or a connection with a certain character or a social experience that’ll keep you gaming for the long haul.

And even if this is just an exercise in temporary whimsy — what’s wrong with that? There’s something refreshing and exciting about making brand-new characters, of sniffing that “do over” smell, of shaking off the routine and the characters you’ve been inhabiting for 200 hours and seeing something different. Even if it’s just for a day or two.

I think I need that right now. The winter doldrums are hitting pretty hard (moreso than in the past due to the lack of activities to do outside of our home), and I need something to look forward to at the end of the day. New projects — like a new character — can be a short-term solution for that.

WoW Classic: Another year, another Warlock

In response to both the general restlessness I’ve had with gaming lately and my increasing thoughts as to Burning Crusade Classic, I indulged the fancy of heading back into WoW Classic. I haven’t dithered in this since before Shadowlands, but right now, the thought of the simplistic gameplay had great appeal. Like a hot cup of chicken soup when you’re plowing through a cold.

And since I knew I had to have a Warlock for TBC, I went ahead and started a new one (I guess I deleted my old one? I did look!). I hopped onto the Mankrik server and started leveling up all over again, making headway without any resources or help.

That initial few days when there’s a pile of things that need to be done to set up the character — get gear, get skills, get professions, train weapons, snag flight points — is overwhelming is also kind of the best, too. It forces me to slow down, to be efficient, and to prioritize what I can and should be doing right at the moment.

As luck would have it, I fell in with a guild right away, which was also on my “must dos” list. I’m still evaluating how friendly and chatty these people are, but they’re reasonably helpful enough. One made me a full set of bags while another ran across a couple of zones to bring me a wand that he or she thought would be helpful in my early levels.

Because boy, that 1-10 run is rough on a Warlock. At least it was until I got a wand. I died a whole lot, because the imp can’t hold aggro and I didn’t have any survival skills yet. But once I got things like fear, healthstones, and my voidwalker Grimmy, life got a whole lot better.

I’m following this leveling guide, since I like the feeling of being efficient and having the author hanging out with me to show me the ropes. There’s a lot of zone hopping and very, very slow runs from one place to another, but I’m using that time to crank up the ambient volume and reminisce about the little touches — the feel — of WoW that was so enchanting all those years ago back in 2004.

Sam and Max Hit the Road: Bigfoot convention

(This is part of my journey going playing through 1993’s Sam and Max Hit the Road. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

Sam and Max finally hit up the Bigfoot convention in Nevada to see what’s going on with all of these fellas. To be honest, I’m not really sure what their quest is at this point, because they don’t seem that driven to retrieve the previously captive creatures. Maybe it’s just curiosity?

It takes four somewhat hard-to-get items to combine together to make this sweet bigfoot outfit, but man, it was totally worth it. Seeing Max up top there brings a smile to my face.

Inside the party, the sasquatches receive a pep talk about how their kind is going extinct in the face of humanity. What about talking dogs and rabbits? But I guess they’re going to have a good time until they all die, so that’s something.

After locking Bumpus and his bodyguard in a freezer — good riddance — Sam and Max are given their final mission: to figure out what four sacred Bigfoot totem poles mean and save their kind from fading out of existence. As they do that, the clan will hang out in the hot tub and get drunk. Sounds fair.

The goal here is, of course, to gather four specific items that match the pictures on the totem poles. None of them is especially easy to get (well, maybe the greasy pillow), but they’re satisfying when done.

With all four items in tow, plus a frozen Bumpus sacrifice, the Bigfoots (Bigfeet?) conduct the ritual to save their species. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but an outbreak of spontaneous redwood growth all over the Pacific Northwest that destroyed several cities and landmarks wasn’t it.

In any event, the Freelance Police have accomplished their mission and done enough good (and destruction) to call it a day. Their payment? A chocolate medallion and 3,000 skeeball tickets.

And thus Sam and Max Hit the Road comes to a close. There is one final treat, however: During the end credits, the player can use Sam and Max to plug away in a shooting gallery.

Final thoughts! Sam & Max has always been toted as a classic of the adventure gaming genre and a gem in LucasArt’s chest, and I fully agree with these sentiments. It’s a funny, wacky cartoon adventure that takes the usual settings of roadside Americana and weaves a quest around it. The writing and voice acting is top-notch, and often I found myself laughing at what the pair would say. Even though some of the puzzles are pretty obscure and scattered, it was a great romp and I’m glad I finally got the time to do it.

Gaming ennui

Weekend afternoons are a sacred thing to me. In the mornings and evenings we do family stuff (chores, day trips, worship, movies), but on Saturday and Sunday afternoon, there’s a glorious three-hour window when the kids go down for quiet time/naps, my wife buries herself in a project, and I can just sit and game. It’s amazing.

It’s not just the free time, but the fact that I can play during the day for once instead of the very last thing late at night when I’m fighting to keep my eyes open. During these afternoons, I get to unwind from the week, and I look forward to them.

That’s why I was disturbed the other Saturday when I settled into my office, put on my headphones, and… didn’t feel like playing anything. No MMO appealed to me. Nor did any other games, not even new ones like Cyberpunk 2077. I felt restless and bored. And normally that sort of “entertainment ennui” would’ve been fine except that for the special qualities of these afternoons. I felt like I was wasting it, somehow, to not be playing.

Of course, that’s silliness from the emotions talking. My head knew better, and so I simply worked on some writing projects and spent some extra time reading while sitting next to my wife.

But it’s always a little unnerving when those moments hit. It’s not exactly burnout, but it’s somewhere in the general vicinity. Maybe it’s a sign I’ve done something for too long without a break, and it’s time to shake things up a bit. Maybe I’m not being challenged or stimulated by the right sort of games.

The answer to this is, of course, always the same. It’s just to back off, do some other stuff for a while, and don’t feel pressured by what an afternoon represents. And so I did that for a few days, just stayed away from gaming, and by Tuesday, I felt back to my so-called normal.

6 things I’m excited to see in Burning Crusade Classic

I’m really hoping that when BlizzCon rolls out next month, we’ll be getting that official Burning Crusade Classic announcement we’ve been expecting. It’s not a sure thing, nor a sure thing for *2021*, but I feel that the odds are pretty strongly in its favor of both being true.

Assuming that it is coming (this summer?), here are six things I’m excited to see when it rolls out:

Draenei

I do love my blue space goats and will probably do the same thing I did at TBC’s launch back in 2007, which is to make a Draenei Shaman the second the servers open up. Their looks, racials, and class options make this an amazing race to have.

Better questing flow

As I’ve been dabbling back in Classic, I have to say that even following a guide is painful in trying to get enough quests to actually level. Burning Crusade introduced the now-standard questing hub model of WoW, and it transformed the experience for me in a good way.

Faster dungeons

I have little to no desire to slog through vanilla dungeons, but TBC? Yeah, I’m down for those. They’re shorter, more visually interesting, and offer better rewards. Of course, I’ll complain that there’s no LFG, but I’m sure spamming zone chat will be just as fun.

Condensed playerbase

Vanilla’s world is almost too open and spread out, and I miss having that expansion land contraction that pens everyone in to a smaller amount of space. More specifically, I miss seeing more people running around and being available for activities.

Better rewards

From gear to flying mounts to pets, Burning Crusade had a lot of great carrots to keep us playing. Although I’m sure I’ll still never get my firefly pet!

The zone design

Sure, TBC has some horribly ugly zones, but Hellfire Peninsula is so iconic and there are at least three additional zones that are very pretty (Zang, Nagrand, and Terrokar). I genuinely liked these zones back in the day and still do, which makes a big difference when you’re spending this much time questing in them.

More class progression

Getting those extra talents is great, and I wish that Blizzard had figured out how to continue with the talent tree from here. And considering that I’m playing a Warlock, I’ll be looking forward to getting my ol’ Felguard back!

Sunday Serenade: Tobii, Mutant Mudds, and more!

Time for another Sunday morning dose of random songs that I’ve been listening to this past week! Welcome to Sunday Serenade — now let’s crank the jams up with… 

“Haunted Party” by Tobii — Nothing scary here, just a good exuberant wake-up song!

“Swords Dance” by Rocket Start — A nice high-energy track with VGM overtones.

“Mine” by PRIZM — Great ’80s sound, great remix.

“Ghost 1” from Mutant Mudds — This one has a fun GameBoy sound to it.

“Your Deck” by DayFox — It’s like the Mass Effect music made a little more poppy?

“Journey” by Tokyo Machine — A really good instrumental jam that goes a little too long.

“De Bom” by Doe Maar — This is some bizarre Dutch pop song from ’82 that I should find totally stupid but I can’t help but bop my head at and replay in shameful secret.

“End of the Road” by Noga Erez — This is a trippy little ride!

“Thunder” by Timmy Trumpet and Vini Vici — Good beats and a serviceable melody.

10 (non-MMO) games I’m looking forward to playing in 2021

Even though my gaming backlog is a mighty beast indeed, and even though I have a wide assortment of MMOs to play at any given time, it’s still fun to anticipate what’s coming down the conveyor belt of development. Today I want to rattle off 10 non-MMO games that I’m looking forward to playing (if they do indeed release this year).

Mass Effect Trilogy Remaster

I’m really intrigued at the notion of a revamped Mass Effect series. It’s been a long time since I played these games, and I never finished the third title or even picked up Andromeda. A full remaster would be an excellent excuse to go back through the whole trilogy start to finish.

Vampire the Masquerade Bloodlines 2

I just went through the original game a year or so ago, and even though vampires and super-dark settings aren’t my thing, I do like the world building here and the thought of a deep CRPG to sink my… mind into.

12 Minutes

This unique single-room timeloop game has a lot of folks interested, yours truly included.

Age of Empires IV

I can’t remember the last time I was excited about an RTS game coming out, but yes, I’ll be there on day one for a new Age of Empires game! I just hope we hear more about this soon.

Everspace 2

I have the first one and haven’t played it (probably should), but the Privateer-like sequel does look like it would hit the spot for a space sim craving I’ve been having.

Open Roads

A road trip adventure game with mystery and relationship drama? Sure. I’m in.

Chinatown Detective Agency

Cyberpunk is real big right now for some reason, so it’s cool we’ll have some more options in the future for this setting such as CDA. It looks to be a pixel art adventure game.

Road 96

I really love road trip games, and this one caught my attention with its visuals and high replayability factor.

Witchbrook

If Chucklefish can do for Harry Potter with Witchbrook what it did for Harvest Moon with Stardew Valley, it’ll sell millions. And I’ll be one of those customers.

SpaceVenture

The SpaceQuest guys were supposed to release this spiritual successor last year, didn’t happen, so maybe in 2021?

Sims 4: The story of Gorp and Jetta

I’ve been neglecting my retro gaming during my lunch break this past week in favor of getting some Sims 4 time in. The idea of creating a new dollhouse and maybe actually playing it for any length of time is appealing, especially considering how much content that I’ve unlocked so far.

So here’s my new family: The Grizzles. Gorp here is an aspiring writer who’s a bit childish and is totally not based on any internet-famous bloggers you might read. Not in the slightest.

Gorp’s wife is Jetta, who is a neat freak criminal mastermind. I liked the idea of making her stylish in contrast with Gorp’s laid-back flannel life. Oh, and I gave them a dog:

Meet Kip, the Boston Terrier! Check out that amazing scarf!

My first stab at building them a house (not pictured) was terrible. I couldn’t figure out a good theme, the design was bland, and I ended up so frustrated that I trashed it and started over. This time I’m going with a 64-square (for the bonuses) spooky-ish victorian mini-mansion. No lights in here except candles, no sirree!

Figuring out the layout is always the hardest part for me, because you *have* to have certain types of objects and make sure that there’s enough room for all of them. I ended up with the above five-room design that incorporated a front hallway, a small living room, a very small bathroom, a fairy light bedroom, and a dining room and kitchen that connected via arches. That’s the meat-and-potatoes right there without any of the touches. Heck, I don’t even have flooring and paint up yet!

I added wallpaper and paint. I don’t normally like darker houses, but here it seems appropriate and goes well with the candle sconces. I went with a purple print wallpaper in the hallway and dining room, a lighter purple for the bedroom, dark blood red for the bathroom, and a lighter (yet olde fashioned) wallpaper for the kitchen. I used curtain fringes for the front hallway to make them a little more claustrophobic.

At this point I started working room-by-room through the house. First up was the tiny bathroom, which I tried to give some personality without overloading it. Some cracks in the walls and a creepy portrait over the sink seemed to be the right touch.

Well, it’s a start at least!

Sam and Max Hit the Road: The nostrils of America

(This is part of my journey going playing through 1993’s Sam and Max Hit the Road. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

To rescue Trixie and Bruno, Sam reprograms Bumpus’ cleaning droid to go set off the alarm in the room they’re being held so that the two can get around the seemingly invincible bodyguard. “I don’t think the cute little robot wants to follow your programming, Sam!” Max said. “I don’t recall giving it a cute little choice, Max,” Sam replied.

Man, I love the dialogue in this game.

With the bodyguard out of Bumpus’ play room, Sam is able to throw on the virtual reality helmet and explore THE WONDERS OF VR! Which… look like 1999-era EverQuest, to be honest. Or a 1996-era Nintendo 64 game. “Virtual reality stinks,” Sam says. I agree, Sam.

It’s a short sequence in which Sam slices up a dragon with his sword and then takes a key out of the dragon’s still-beating heart. Turns out that this virtual reality key is exactly what the duo needs to free Bruno and Trixie!

Bruno is overjoyed to finally be free of Conroy Bumpus, but neither of them are inclined to head back to the circuis. Bruno mentions a Bigfoot gathering in Nevada, so the Freelance Police decide to check it out.

I don’t know if this a common effect of playing this game, but I’m starting to get a real hankering to go on a road trip to the bizarre sideshows of America. Yes, I’d totally go to a Celebrity Vegetable Museum, if there was such a thing.

Another stop in their weird trek is the Dino Bungee National Memorial, where people can bungee out of the large stone noses of our presidents while looking upon dinosaur statues. I feel as patriotic as can be right now!

There’s more item collection and obscure environmental puzzles in these new areas. Sam and Max have some fun pulling a T. Rex tooth and giving a wooly mammoth a haircut (thanks to Max’s incisors).

“This place evokes a sense of wonder,” Sam says as they get to the tarpit slide. “You have to wonder,” Max replies.

The bungee instructor shamelessly hits on Sam, which I find mildly disturbing and funny at the same time. But now he’s ready to go — to launch himself out of a stone nostril and down to gather up some much-needed tar. It’s an adventure game; you need to get everything in the hopes of one day using it to a solve a puzzle.

I feel like I’m living my life to the fullest at this moment, playing a game in which I sent a dog and rabbit bungee jumping out of Mount Rushmore to scoop up tar.

It can never hurt to toss in an Indiana Jones homage, especially if you’re a LucasArts game. And what better way to swipe a toupee than to exchange it for an eggplant?