Posted in Project Zomboid

Project Zomboid: Simon sez it’s time to stop playing

Well, here we go again with another round of demoralizing deaths to a sadistic computer game. Truly the stress reliever I need! And before you ask, yes, I’ve watched through and read plenty of starter guides to this game. It’s just that I’m terrible at it.

For these runs, I’m going with a different build: A fire officer (for fitness and strength) who may be an out-of-shape smoker, but he’s also inconspicuous and lucky. I feel that I really need the zombies to see me a whole lot less than they are.

First up is Marci, who spawns inside a home where a TV is breaking the news of the zombie apocalypse. She quickly scurries around and closes all of the blinds before exploring the house.

It could be that my lucky trait is already paying off. I got a frying pan as an excellent starter weapon, keys to a car, and downed a zombie with a much-needed digital watch. I also scored a leather coat, so go me.

But with keys to a truck, I couldn’t resist going for a joyride and mowing down a bunch of zombies. I’m sorry! I couldn’t resist! Plus, I wanted to get the hang of driving, which isn’t too bad in this game. Unfortunately, all of the noise of my rampage got a bunch of zeds alterted, and Marcie died shortly after getting to her neighbors. I tried to fend off five zombies, but one got a lucky bite in and that was it.

Next run, Wynona the Carpenter. And she got a hammer, so there’s some nice synergy! She spawned in a huge house with a lot of useful items — flashlight, sheets, clothes, food, even a fanny pack. And the hammer. But it’s too big of a house to fortify, not that I really know how at this point, and so she needed to venture out to see what else was out there.

So Wynona’s “story” is pretty much like everyone else that I’ve played. She suits up, creeps out of her home, and is instantly swarmed by every zombie in the zip code. I swear, I am crouching and sneaking, so I have no idea why I’m such a zombie magnet!

Truly frustrated now, for the next playthrough I decided to ratchet down the difficulty level from “survivor” to “builder.” I just needed a break to let me get my game legs and, you know, not die within minutes. Thus was born Simon, who started right off with a backpack, car keys, and the trashiest home ever. Seriously, it looks like this place was abandoned and someone decided to decorate with a metal can and two plastic chairs. Suffice to say, he moved on quick from there.

At the second house, amid the careful gaze of the flamingos, Simon found a baseball bat — and grinned. Life was looking a little bit better!

While the power’s still on and working, Simon decides it’s best to catch an episode of woodcraft on the telly.

Weirdly enough, the “builder” difficulty level is TOO easy, leaving Simon here to listlessly roam the neighborhood, loot, and occasionally take a baseball bat to zombies. Honestly? I think I’ve gotten bored of this whole game. It’s got some interesting ideas and a whole lot of options and depth, but it’s also stressful with permadeath constantly hanging over one’s head.

So instead of taking Simon to his eventual death, I think I’ll do him a solid and leave him in a cozy house with a good book to read. It’s a better fate for him, and I shall move on to other venues.

Posted in Music

Why I’m probably never going to adapt to music streaming services

I think that growing older is the experience of looking up one day and finding out that everything has seemingly changed overnight in some vital way — and that you’ve been left behind. We get comfortable with what we’re comfortable with, if that makes sense, and it’s exhausting trying to stay on top of every single trend and tech. If something works for you, why not keep going with it?

I say this because it now feels like I’m very much alone in the music consumption scene these days. For a long time, I just ignored the onset of music streaming services — Pandora, Spotify, etc. — and kept on with collecting music and updating my various music players. But now I look up, and streaming music is all I see people talking about. I have no idea exactly how prevalent it is, or how great the ratio between collectors and streamers are, but it’s certainly more of a norm than it used to be.

And while I’m happy for you if you like the option to pay a monthly sub and stream to your heart’s content, it’s really never going to be for me. I say this for the same reason I don’t listen to the radio — I would rather have direct control over my music than to let a DJ or algorithm pick for me. I’d rather own my songs and have them stored where some faceless company can’t take them away from me.

Besides, it’s not like I’m going to give up on music collecting. Looking back, I really started transitioning into digital music back in 1999 when I got my post-college desktop and a reliable dial-up service. I ripped all my CDs and then started hunting down more music to curate for my collection. Bit by bit, I’ve built up a curated music folder that’s one huge awesome playlist of tunes — everything from rock to video game music to movie soundtracks to commercial jingles — that I take in the car, on my phone, on my computer, or through Alexa via an app that streams it from my own music folder. Every single piece of music I listen to is picked by me and is mine to have. That means something to me.

I have tracks that when they come on, I can recognize as ones that I found really, really early on. There’s a pleasant rush of nostalgia when that happens. The music in my folder takes me forward and back through my life like a time machine, bouncing from my alt rock years in college to my obsession with EDM in the mid-2010s to my childhood (yes, I have so many tracks that are themes to cartoons like COPS or Inspector Gadget).

Every week I listen through a few hundred songs, and really only a handful of them make it into this musical collection. It’s got to be a track I want to hear again one day, one that won’t grow old by the third listen. And from that steady, faithful curation, I’ve amassed about 5,400 tracks that are all about quality, fun, and personal connection. And I love throwing them all onto my iPod Classic 5.5 and rocking out in the car or on walks.

So why would I give that up to pay for a streaming service to deliver sub-par selections? Easy: I won’t.

Posted in Books

Looking back at my history with Kindles

Last week, my parents bought me an early birthday present — a brand-new Kindle Paperwhite to replace my old one, which had gotten a hole in the screen somehow. I’ve found it a delightful gift, especially since my previous Kindle was from 2014. Yes, I run technology into the ground, especially if it’s still working. Ask me how old my iPad mini is and why my wife keeps begging me to buy me a new one for Christmas, only to hear my refusal of “Hey, it still works!”

But I don’t mind an upgrade, no sirree! There’s more screen real estate, far faster page turning time, a “warm” backlight feature for reading before bed, and I even got a cover to go with it to keep it from getting scratched.

What’s weird to consider is that this is actually only my third Kindle… ever. I’ve had more kids than Kindles at this point in my life. Thanks putting my geeky life down in this blog, I have a record of this journey. My first one was 12 years ago in June 2010, presented to me by my father-in-law. This was the second edition of Kindle, I believe, with the clicky page turning buttons and the keyboard (which kindles needed for some reason, maybe shopping). My favorite feature with that one, aside from reading eBooks, was having a free internet via cell towers that came with the device.

Then for Christmas 2013, I bought myself a Kindle Paperwhite because I had to have that backlight. This became the trusty powerhouse reader that I would tote around for almost a decade — a time span that seems absolutely wild to me now. Other than slow page turning, I had no qualms with it. It was very durable, I could read in the dark, and it was small enough to slip into my pocket.

In fact — embarrassing admission time — just two weeks ago I had my kids tearing the house apart looking for this Kindle so that I could take it with me on a trip. Only to realize after 20 minutes that, yes, it was in my back pockets. I guess this is the new “those missing glasses are on your head.”

So now I’m onto my third. This actually delights my kids, because my old tech becomes their new toys. I’m setting up my old Paperwhite to be the kids’ ebook reader, and they are jazzed about it. And it pleases me, because I don’t like to get new stuff only to toss old tech onto a pile to be forgotten.

Posted in Most Wanted

Bio Break’s 20 Most Wanted Games

I was sitting down to revise one of my sidebar panels to turn it into a top 20 “most wanted” games list, and I thought I should also make this into a quick post. Here are the 20 games — single-player, multiplayer, mobile, and MMO — that I am most looking forward to playing as of right now. No particular order.

  1. The Sims 5 — I’m really curious what a new iteration might look like, and I wouldn’t mind a fresh start, either.
  2. The Outer Worlds 2 – Loved the first RPG to pieces, especially its game world, and am really psyched about a sequel.
  3. Starfield — I and everyone else am exceedingly curious what Bethesda is cooking with this scifi RPG.
  4. Two Point Campus — Sure, I’d be down for a college management game. Could be a lot more fun than a hospital!
  5. Nightingale — The Victorian angle is what’s currently selling me on this survival game.
  6. Ship of Heroes — It’s time we got a new superhero MMO. Will this one rise to the challenge?
  7. Return to Monkey Island — So excited we’re finally getting a new Monkey Island from
  8. Monsters & Memories — This is a very dark horse entry, but I dig the enthusiasm of this MMO team. Hope they can make something out of it.
  9. Pantheon — Who knows if this’ll ever get finished at this point, but I really wouldn’t mind seeing a spiritual successor to Vanguard.
  10. Mythforce — How cool is the idea of a roguelike based on Saturday morning cartoon aesthetics from the ’80s?
  11. Project Gorgon — It’s time to get this game launched, yo.
  12. Witchbrook — This fills the “I am undeniably interested in a follow-up to Stardew Valley, so yes, please.”
  13. Haunted Chocolatier — See above.
  14. Ashes of Creation — I’m still waiting to get my money out of this MMO. Make it happen.
  15. Corepunk — I’m the only person in the world pulling for this MMO, but I won’t relent.
  16. Diablo Immortal — Diablo on phones is a no-brainer win.
  17. Riot Games’ MMORPG — Big studio, big budget, big devs. It could be something amazing… or nothing at all.
  18. Palia — Probably my most-wanted MMORPG at this point. Really want to get into a cozy virtual world.
  19. Warcraft Arclight Rumble — Dang it if this doesn’t look addictive.
  20. Blizzard’s survival game — I can’t deny I’m curious.
Posted in Wildermyth

Wildermyth: The Order of the Holey Sock

It’s been a little while since I last booted up Wildermyth for a campaign — perhaps too long. I’ve wanted to take a party through the other four or five hand-crafted campaigns in this wonderful RPG, and so today I’m going to kick off an adventure through module 2: The Enduring War.

Our starting party this time is Norly (greedy hothead Warrior), Erick (romantic poet Hunter), and Jenshae (snarky romantic Mystic).

In their village, the trio are sharing old tales of long-forgotten monsters like the Morthagi, which are these bone-and-metal constructs housing souls. I think. And wouldn’t you know it, a bunch of Morthagi suddenly pop up everywhere! Time to grab a pitchfork and get to pokin’.

After a fight, the crew decides that they need to become an official company to face this threat. Norly also has a bit of a crush on Erick. “Who would’ve thought Norly and Erick would make such a great team?” she says. Jenshae glares. “You’re nice too,” Norly adds sheepishly. They call their new company (drumroll please) the Order of the Holey Sock. The Sockies, for short.

The world is doomed.

After a follow-up fight in the middle of a forest (during which a giant, mysterious shape is seen lumbering by), Jenshae and Erick officially become rivals. Not quite sure why, but there we are. The crew heads back to their home town to recruit another party member: Keen, a goofish snark who takes up a bow. I like Hunters in this game. She’s a bit of a dolt, though, because the first thing she does is try to grab a gem from a statue and get it firmly lodged in her right eye. Eye gem!

I had forgotten how much I genuinely enjoy the tactical combat in this game. It’s so smooth and offers all sorts of interesting choices. Personally, I like using Jenshae’s mystic abilities to interfuse with objects and then turn them into booby traps against the enemy.

So all of Wildermyth is a series not so much of quests but of “opportunities” and encounters. And one of these involves two giant spirits — a hill spirit and a forest spirit — debating over the ownership of a shrine. Jen is called in to arbitrate, and she deems it the hill spirit’s, since it created it in the first place.

Subtle, Norly. Subtle.

In a tower full of abandoned Morthagi machinery, Keen decides to test her “theory.” Which is, basically, to build a friendly Morthagi. And she does! Sommelier the Morthagi joins the party as a helpful companion. As Norly says, “Well. This’ll be weird.”

If Wildermyth doesn’t make you laugh, I’m afraid you have a heart of stone. The best part of this game is witnessing your party have kooky conversations with each other. It really draws out their personalities. As the company journeys, Norly and Erick make a side trek to get some extra training from an ancient order of weird mystic knights. It’s a helpful week of, among other things, “hog dodging.”

A strange and fierce battle erupts around a forge, where a Morthagi is fleeing other of these bio-machines. We get no answers as to why, but it’s an intriguing development.

At the end of Chapter 1 here, 11 years pass by. Jenshae grows a mountain leg for having helped the mountain spirit, Erick and Norly marry, and Keen falls in love with a barman. All in all, a good start for the Order of the Holey Sock.

But the weirdness with the Morthagi is only beginning, it seems…

Posted in Lord of the Rings Online

LOTRO: A heart goes Yondershire

It took me about a week, start to finish, but I went through the entirety of the new zone in Lord of the Rings Online — Yondershire. This was the hefty zone expansion that SSG delivered for the game’s 15th anniversary, going back in a way to the early game nostalgia while offering something new.

I can’t tell you how excited I was to see Bingo Boffin — and his extended family — pop up in this zone. I’m a major Boffin Head, as we call ourselves (or we will, when I convince others to join me), and it was an unexpected treat to go through a lengthy storyline with him and his goofy relatives. I won’t spoil what it was, but I was laughing out loud during various places.

There were certainly a lot of callbacks to the old Shire in the Yondershire’s quests: mail delivery, hide-and-seek, tavern hopping, and the like. I never really felt like the zone was the Shire, though. Outside of the towns, it had a generic look that could’ve been Anywhere, Middle-earth.

Neeker-Breekers! This one wanted to pose for a camera shot, so I obliged.

Anyway, I was overwhelmed — in a good way — by the number of quests that this zone offers. There are four town hubs, and each has quite a few quests and story chains to experience. There was that light-hearted tone of Hobbity whimsy and perspective that makes them so unique in this game setting, and I’m certainly not going to complain that we got more of it.

The only thing I couldn’t judge, taking a level 60 through it, is how efficient the zone is for leveling. I can see it as a nice substitute for level 20 zones — Lone-lands and North Downs in particular — but perhaps not faster than doing either of those.

Posted in Diablo 3

Blizzard shouldn’t have given up on Diablo III

With Diablo Immortal on the way in less than a month, you’d be totally forgiven for not realizing that Diablo III just celebrated its 10th anniversary on May 15th. And my “celebrated,” I mean “Blizzard completely ignored the milestone save for a lazy tweet and one developer who went off on his own to do a Q&A with the community.” If there was ever a more clear sign that this studio completely gave up on Diablo III, I don’t know what it would be.

But save for slapping the reset switch on seasons every so often, Blizzard hasn’t cared about D3 in a long, long time. A little historical perspective: Diablo III sold 3.5 million copies in its first day and 30 million by 2015. It came out with exactly one (1) expansion, Reaper of Souls, in 2014, created a retro Diablo 1 mode in 2017, and expanded onto multiple consoles by 2014. Word is that a second expansion was being made, but Blizzard canned it and moved most of the team to World of Warcraft. The Necromancer was added in a sort of mini-expansion in 2017. The most significant recent movement for the game was getting it onto Nintendo Switch in 2018.

It’s not completely maintenance mode, but with no new content being made, all expansion development ceased, and other titles (D2’s remake, Diablo IV, and Diablo Immortal) taking over the franchise, Diablo III’s been dead in the water for some time now. People may still like it and play it, but the game has no future.

And it’s not like I have any personal stake in this. I don’t really play this (or most ARPGs, to be honest), and I understand that sometimes you’ve got to move on with the next thing. But it’s always seemed to me that Blizzard let Diablo III die long before it had to. It’s a good, solid game, and it’s not hard to imagine how further expansions could’ve added more multiplayer activities, classes, and other reasons to get engaged.

Maybe that’s the Diablo curse? One expansion, and then we’re through with you. Diablo I and II know this all too well. Perhaps it’s simply not a series conducive by metrics or financial reports to continue for a lengthy period of time. Just seems like a shame to me, is all.

Posted in Books

Book Report: Legends & Lattes, Mort, and more!

Another five novels in the bag for 2022, so it’s time to do a quick book report and share my thoughts on each!

Legends & Lattes

I’d heard this one described as a “cozy coffeehouse fantasy” that constituted a quick and smooth read, and it was indeed that. It’s nothing more or less than a fantasy of an Orc who hangs up her adventuring sword in favor of starting a coffee shop in a town unused to such modern establishments. It spends a whole lot of time detailing the store being built, which was fine, although I wasn’t quite buying all of the coincidences that brought every perfect person into Val’s life for this project (even with the doohickey).

Mort

My first Death novel from Pratchett. I’d heard a lot of good things about Mort but ultimately came away feeling unsatisfied with it. Mort is a gawky kid who takes up an apprenticeship with Death, who ends up checking out of the biz to try to find some fun in his life. Mort takes over, messes things up, and tries to find romance along the way. Some OK jokes but nothing like the City Watch series.

Strangeworlds Travel Agency

I’ll say straight-up that this ended up being a DNF (did not finish) for me, not necessarily because it was bad, but just a little too kiddie for my tastes. It’s about a girl who joins a society of explorers that jump through suitcases to visit other universes. And it’s fine, I guess, but it just dragged after a while and didn’t have enough hooks to keep me after about half the book.

The Mask of Mirrors

Book reputations aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be. This one got such rave reviews that I snapped it up on audiobook, struggled to keep my attention after a few chapters, switched over to a printed version, and felt the same. There’s potential in a tale of a grifter who worms her way into a major merchant family, but it didn’t stay interesting enough to keep my attention. This went on the “did not finish” pile.

Agent of Change

This is my first Liaden Universe novel, a series I hadn’t even heard of before this year — and yet it’s been going on some 24 novels and countless short stories. And let me tell you, I was BOWLED OVER by how good it was. Interesting, decent action, funny bits, nice world building, and all-around good writing. I was on board with this start to finish, and by the end, I wanted to go through the other 23 books to catch up. Fun story about a space spy and a scrappy merc who become partners and make best friends with a giant turtle.