Weekend Gaming

Well, as you can see from the picture above, I’ll be doing some PC gaming this weekend. I recently built myself a new gaming PC to replace my aging gaming laptop. I have some thoughts about my gaming laptop experience and thoughts about finding myself drifting away from being a console gamer and becoming entrenched in the PC gaming landscape, but those are posts for another day.

This weekend will be all about getting the new PC fully operational and decked out. I documented the progression of putting the system together with my cohorts, but I’ll include you all in the details soon. Needless to say, I am ready to play some games on this bad boy! I have already downloaded Dota 2 (because duh and because I wanted to see it in all its high settings glory), Endless Legend (because it chugged on my old system), Dishonored and The Walking Dead Season 2. The next order of business this afternoon will be to install Origin and download Dragon Age: Inquisition. There are tons of other games I’d like to play, but that’s a good start.

So I’ll be PC gaming this weekend — what are you going to play?

Read in 2014

I am blatantly stealing this idea from Zack. I love reading his post every year and use it to add books to my ever-growing list of “To Read” on goodreads.com. While my list of books read in 2014 wasn’t very long, hopefully it’s still interesting:

The Slow Burn Fitness Revolution: The Slow Motion Exercise That Will Change Your Body in 30 Minutes a Week by Fredrick Hahn, Michael R. Eades, Mary Dan Eades (181)

2014 was the year to get back to good health and get back in shape. I had heard about this Slow Fitness Revolution listening to a podcast and thought I’d give it a looksee. To be completely honest, this book wasn’t that helpful. This book could have been 50 pages shorter if they had just got right to the point of the advantages of this work-out mindset. A lot of time was spent needlessly using examples where one or two would have had the same effect. I have some doubts that 30+ minutes a week will be sufficient to get in better shape, but I am willing to give this a try.

Your Personal Paleo Code: The 3-Step Plan to Lose Weight, Reverse Disease, and Stay Fit and Healthy for Life by Chris Kresser (416)

The other half of the getting healthy was changing my diet. I did the Atkins Low Carb diet years ago (to great success) but it wasn’t something I could maintain long term. After reading about the Paleo Diet for years, I figured I’d see if I could make it work. Chris Kresser’s approach to the strict Paleo way of life is one of adaption and experimentation. It starts with a 30-day reset where you eliminate all the process foods, sugars, grain, dairy and other harmful food. Once you’ve gone through this cleanse, you slow add back foods like diary and starch back into your diet to see how your body reacts to them. A lot of people’s health problems stem for allergic reactions to things the body can do without (gluten, lactose). Eliminating them and then figuring out how your body reacts are keep components to this “lifestyle”. He calls it you personal code because everyone’s body is different and requires a personalized approach to nutrition.

In addition to the nurtritional side, Kresser also examines and teaches the improtance of things like eliminating stress, having meaningful activity and “play time” (he even advocates a small amount of video gaming, recognizing the benefit such as hand-to-eye coordination) and getting a good night’s rest. It’s all about taking care of your body, and frankly, we don’t do a very good job of it.

As a testament to how much this book effected me, I lost over 30 pounds over the period of a few months and have been able to keep almost all of it off for almost a year now. I fell off the wagon for a bit during the holidays, but I’ve adjusted my diet and I can already feel the difference.

To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip Jose Farmer (216)

Not quite sci-fi, definitely not fantasy but there is some quasi-religious and metaphysical musings going on here. And maybe a touch of fictional history. The story follows Sir Richard Francis Burton (a real historic figure, a very interesting one at that) as he dies and is “reborn” in a strange location referred to as “The Riverworld”. This isn’t the afterlife (or is it?) nor is it purgatory (or is it?) but there are millions (billions) of other humans being resurrected all around him. The story follows Burton and a group of people from different times (including an alien responsible for the destruction of humanity and a neanderthal) as he tries to figure out what’s going on.

Riverworld is actually a series of books, but TYSBG is an enjoyable stand-alone novel.

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer (195)

Annihilation came out in 2014 (it’s not very often I actually read something contemporary like this) and received critical praise and popularity. It was described as a sort of Lovecraftian-mystery, with hints of “weird” science fiction.

I didn’t love it. The story follows four nameless women (only known by their professions — surveyor, anthropologist etc) as they enter “Area X”, an area that has been shrouded in mystery and has effected every expedition that ventured into it in different ways. This is the twelfth expedition (or is it?) and the story is narrated by the Anthropologist. Is she reliable? Is everything she sees real? The book started out promising, but I found myself losing steam as I made my way through it.

Annihilation is a trilogy, but unlike To Your Scattered Bodies Go, it doesn’t stand on as its own as a complete novel. I’m not sure I’ll make it through the trilogy.

The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia (301)

An interesting take on a lot of different popular topics — gender roles, humanity, politics. An enjoyable and pretty quick read. I’m not comfortable with the man/machine relationship when it comes to love and this book handles it a bit clumsily. But the Steampunk and Sci-Fi setting mixed with some fantasy is an enjoyable setting.

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3) by Suzanne Collins (415)

I finished the first two books a while ago, but after letdown reading the second book, I wasn’t motivated to read the 3rd until I knew the movie would be coming out. I enjoyed the third installment of The Hunger Games much more than I did the second. I know a lot of people complained of how quickly things came to a conclusion in the second (and some say of the third) but I thought the pacing and action of the third was well balanced and very enjoyable.

And without spoiling anything, it ended how I hoped it would.

So that was my reading list for 2014. A total of 1,724 pages.

What did you read last year?

Books (and pages) read in 2013: Five books (1,546 pages)

Tony’s 2014 Game of the Year – 2 Much Dota 2

We neglected to do “Game of the Year” posts last year. Previously we used to do “Fun Game of the Year” lists where we’d talk about the games we had the most fun with that particular year. We’re going back to our roots and posting our “Game of the Year” posts this year.

For me, my game of the year did not come out in 2014. It actually went into beta in 2011. Heck, it’s conception didn’t even happen in this decade — it’s a revamped version of a Warcraft III mod that was popular almost ten years ago. It went out of beta in 2013. And yet it’s the game that has held my attention longer than any other game not named EVE: Online.

I could spend a month’s worth of posts explaining why Dota 2 consumed so much of my time. The short list includes:

  • “Quick”, concise games – I know what I’m committing to when I hit “Play” in Dota 2. This isn’t going to be a marathon gaming session. It will be between 40-60 minutes. There will be no do-overs, no quick saves. Just me, my team and uninterrupted mayhem.
  • Over 100 heroes to learn and love (and hate) – It takes a while to get used to any one hero and it takes HOURS to get “good”. I would say I am “good” with about ten heroes. There are some I don’t care if I ever play. There are probably another 20-25 I’d like to get better at.
  • Never the same game twice – (Which is ironic to say because it’s the EXACT same game EVERY TIME) With two teams of five heroes each, the combinations are limitless. Add in varying skill levels and teammate competency and you’ve go the ingredients for infinite variety.
  • Free to play, pay to be different – This is actually going to be the subject of its own post, but I used to think free-to-play games that offer character customization (flair, if you will) was no way to run a free to play game. After having spent more on Dota 2 than I would buying a triple-A title, I have to say that Valve got free-to-play “right”.
  • The pro scene – I sometimes compare the pro Dota 2 scene to professional golf. Golf is a game that has a low enough bar for entry that just about anyone can play it. At the same time, the level of play of professionals is so advanced, no weekend warrior will ever be as good. But they are playing essentially the same game. Other pro sports are not like that. Your yearly Turkey Bowl with you buddies is not and will never be the Super Bowl. Dota 2 enthusiasts can watch a Dota 2 pro match and understand the strategy and gameplay and think “I could do that”.
  • I am a collector and stats whore – See above about customizing your character for the collector part — I love my Dota 2 inventory. But if you’ve followed this blog since the beginning, you’ll know how much of a stats whore I am (Halo 3, for instance). There is a ton of data generated during each match of Dota 2, and there are great sites like dotabuff.com that will aggregate and present it so you can brag to your friends after that great 20-3-15 game.

juggernaut

Yes, the game has a community that is usually toxic but there are always pleasant little surprises sprinkled in among the dreck. If you find some dudes that don’t disparage your manhood nor question your ancestry (like the guys in the Buttonmashing Steam Group!), team up with them again. It’s safer to go into the Swamps of Sadness with some mates.

Even though there is a lot, this post is just scratching the surface. I’d really like to delve deeper into some of the games mechanics and concepts and the things that you can do around the periphery of the game as the year goes on. So I hope you like reading about Dota 2, because I sure like it as a game!

January Releases

Here are the video game releases for the month of January 2015.

It looks like this will be a great month to work on that backlog and play some games you’ve been meaning to get to without worrying about what games are coming out this month, because quite honestly, there’s not a whole lot to write home about. With that said, on to this month’s releases:

Xbox One

Week of January 20th
Saints Row IV: Re-Elected + Gat out of Hell

Week of January 27th
Dying Light
DYNASTY WARRIORS 8 Empires – CLEARLY THE CAPITAL LETTERS ARE IMPORTANT


Week of January 20th
Saints Row: Gat out of Hell


No new releases for the Nintendo Wii U in January


No new releases for the Nintendo 3DS in January


Week of January 20th
Saints Row: Gat out of Hell

Week of January 27th
Grand Theft Auto V
Dying Light


PS4 Banner

Week of January 20th
Motorcycle Club
Saints Row IV: Re-Elected + Gat out of Hell

Week of January 27th
DYNASTY WARRIORS 8 Empires
Dying Light


Week of January 20th
Saints Row: Gat out of Hell
Motorcycle Club


Week of January 27th
Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth2: Sisters Generation

What are you picking up this month?
(Note: As always, all Amazon.com links have our affiliate code embedded in them. If you purchase something through our link, we get a little commission. It’s appreciated.)

Weekend Gaming

It’s the first weekend of the new year, hopefully everyone has some new games the need to be played, either from the holiday gift-giving festivities or from taking advantage of the deals available to gamers everywhere (is it just me, or were the Steam Sales really disappointing this year? Are we spoiled gamers? Did Valve and other publishers tire of giving away their stuff for next to nothing?)

We got some new games in the Buttonmashing household, including Disney Infinity 2.0 and Super Smash Bros. Wii U, so I hope to get a little time with the little buttonmashers throwing down in SSB (where I literally have no idea what I’m doing and I get by on my buttonmashing skills honed over the last twenty years). I didn’t pick up much during the Steam Sale, but I did pick up Turbo Dismount which looks like it’s going to be a great game to play with my sons. Finishing my Wild Walkers campaign in Endless Legend and finally trying Dungeon of the Endless a try will round out my weekend of gaming. And Dota 2. There’s always time for Dota 2.

What are you playing this weekend?

In My Digital Weekend Gaming Hands

Yeah, it’s the Holiday Steam Sale, but before I grab anything off my wish list there, I picked up a couple digital downloads for my gaming pleasure. First up is the latest expansion for my hands-down favorite iOS game, Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer.

realms_unraveled

The new expansion, Realms Unraveled, introduces multi-faction heroes and a “Unite” mechanic that allows cards to play off each other. It’s a great mechanic for throwing down some great combos, but those combos can get out of hand quickly:

Outside of that drubbing, I’ve been enjoying the new expansion. I haven’t tried it out with any of the other expansion decks. (Also, be warned: Ascension is now available on Steam. I can’t be held responsible for your addiction.)

I was also given a review code for Thomas Was Alone for the Wii U. I have heard great things about TWA but I haven’t had a chance to dive in yet. I hope to do that this weekend.

And of course there will be the usual Dota 2. There’s always Dota 2.

What will you be playing this weekend?

Unsolicited Mental Objects, Week of 11/30

Tony
I haven’t delved into a strategy game or a civ/sim game in quite some time. But I couldn’t resist the allure of giving Endless Legend a try, and I’m glad I did. I hope to write some more in-depth initial impressions soon, but suffice it to say that it has its hooks in me. It has a Civilization-esque “just one more turn” coupled with skill and tech trees to give variety and complexity to each game. I went into the game (after the tutorial) completely green and let the defaults reign as I tried my first world. I went with the elf-like Wild Walkers as my race. I’m 30 turns in and even as I type this I wonder what the next 30 turns hold. I’ve pacified a minor faction of Minotaurs, expanded my first city and am well on my way to founding my second.

I worry that “just one more turn” is going to turn into “just one more hour”.

Nick
Blizzard yesterday revealed an additional 61 Hearthstone cards that will be included in the new Goblins vs. Gnomes expansion to be released sometime this month. Prior to this unveiling I was under the impression that the expansion is just going to be an unfavorable hodge podge of RNG and incessant Priestcraft trickery – which, during the first weeks of release, Hearthstone shall still be. But now, after seeing these new cards, I am starting to feel that spark of yielding to the hype, the willingness to jump into the cyclone giddy and clueless.

Where some of the initial expansion card reveals had me scoffing and chuckling with irony, Blizzard is, as I am now perceiving it, methodically expanding the playing field. It’s good to see Silver Hand Recruits get some love, as well as counters to secrets, the misfire mechanic of the ogre cards, Hunter’s Feign Death (Battlecry: Trigger all deathrattles on your minons… so evil). Tokens. Murlocs. Mechs. So many disgusting combinations…

To date, I have spent an approximate $0.00 on Hearthstone. This figure is not shared here as a badge of honor, to be a snoot about it. Nor has it ever been an act of principle or guiding light during gametime. I simply have never felt compelled enough to pay USD for boosters because earning gold in-game is a joy and a journey. At times I admit to wondering just how long I can and will go before coughing up the funds. But with this impending onslaught of cards both fresh and wily… Dagnabbit, Blizzard. You may have caught me on this one.

*enter evil laugh here*

James

I got maybe one or two matches of Dota 2 in with Tony during the holiday break, I think we lost both matches. It’s getting harder and harder to win when your “teammates” are either going AFK or just downright horrible. =/

Played a few matches of Smite in last night with Jason and we won a few and lost a few. I think I’ve been away from Smite for a while/I wasn’t playing very well. Thankfully you can surrender after the 10 minute mark if your team is being destroyed. This way you can end a match and hop into another one and roll the dice for a chance at a good team.

December Releases

With the bulk of gaming releases already out in November, December doesn’t usually bring along a huge slate of games. This December is no different, with a couple games that might hold your interest but otherwise aren’t all that great. With that said, on to this month’s releases:

Xbox One

Week of December 2nd
Terraria – I’m surprised to see this out on next-gen consoles, but Terraria is a great game so why not?
The Crew


Week of December 2nd
The Crew


Week of December 2nd
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker – If ever there was a game that screamed “THIS IS NINTENDO”, Captain Toad is that game. Look at those bright colors. LOOK AT THEM. My goodness, the colors. So bright.
NES Remix Pack – Nintendo going hard, tugging at the nostalgic heart strings. /Purchases NES Remix Pack


Week of December 2nd
Ultimate NES Remix


Week of December 2nd
Skullgirls
Titanfall Deluxe
Battlefield 4: FINAL STAND
The Crew

Week of December 9th
FINAL FANTASY XIII-2
Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris

Week of December 16th
Divinity: Original Sin


PS4 Banner

Week of December 2nd
Terraria
The Crew

Week of December 9th
Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris

Week of December 16th
Guilty Gear Xrd – SIGN – “Xrd”?! It’s like they’re not even trying anymore with these names. Xrd, indeed.


Week of December 2nd
Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX


No releases this month for the Sony Playstation Vita.

What are you picking up this month?
(Note: As always, all Amazon.com links have our affiliate code embedded in them. If you purchase something through our link, we get a little commission. It’s appreciated.)

In My Weekend Gaming Hands

endless_legend

With the Steam Sale in full force, I had to pull the trigger and grab Endless Legend (by the time it downloads, I’ll probably have picked up Endless Space and Dungeon of the Endless as well). So along with some Black Friday deal posting (like this one for Diablo III: Reaper of Souls console version) I imagine I’ll be playing some Endless Legend this weekend. And of course a weekend of gaming wouldn’t be complete without a game or two of Dota 2. So my gaming deck is loaded.

What are you going play this holiday weekend?

Unsolicited Mental Objects, Week of 11/23

James
I got a few matches of Smite in last night with Jason before getting in a game of Dota 2 with Tony.

The first match in Smite was an arena game type and we had a disconnect on our team within about 5 minutes from the start and things weren’t looking all that good for us. The lead that the enemy team had built up was dwindling and we were catching up. it was down to the point where one kill either way would determine the victor and….we won! It was definitely a fun match because of how close it was and the effort it took to pull out a win (don’t mind how badly I did).

The game Tony and I played was a train wreck. You can tell from the graph we weren’t making very much headway. Whenever a team fight broke out our teammates would slowly meander over and line up to die one at a time. The worst part was that I denied the Phantom Assassins contract and we could have had a chance to get some sweet drops if we won… =(

I’m sure I’ll get some gaming on Friday while the lady folk are out spending $.

Jason
I’ll admit that I’m humble bundle obsessed. I’ll attribute about 90% of my steam library to little bundle purchases that I’ve grabbed over the past several years. They do a service for the gaming community and the charities that they support.  I’m hard pressed not to pick up every bundle that has a worthwhile game or two within it.

This week brought the Humble Sega Bundle and along with it a NEED for SPEED. For a couple bucks I managed to get myself into a delightful little Mario Kart clone called Sega All Star Racing Transformed. Quite honestly, it’s the best kart-style racing game I’ve played on the PC in a long while.

SASRT has one of the most dynamic and gorgeous set of kart racing maps I’ve had the privilege of playing. Maps are unique and draw inspiration from many Sega titles like Jet Set Radio Future, Space Channel 5, and the Sonic The Hedgehog.

What makes this game so fresh is the way the maps seamlessly transform the game play from a road racer to a hydro thunder style boat racer and then into a high flying air racer. You’ll be battling in your kart and the ground will crumble beneath you transforming your kart into a boat as you splash into the water. After crashing through waves and diving through boost rings you’ll eventually be propelled into the air to blast your opponents out of the sky.

All in all I’m really pleased with this humble pickup. Most of my Humble bundle games just pad my collection and collect digital dust but I can see picking this one up on a regular basis. Replayability is a huge deal for me and this one will be easy to pick up for a few minutes at a time for some fast, frantic, and fabulous fun.

Nick
The Steam Autumn sale is rumored to begin today at 1PM EST. Quick! Everybody go bananas! This news grabs hold of an internal conflict which has been brewing deep inside for several weeks now and thrusts it to the surface. The conflict: Do I purchase Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor or Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag. I could realistically afford to purchase both, but that would be too easy and chafe against my tendency to make mountains out of molehills. And so, the bout continues.

On one side is Shadow of Mordor. I have never played a game in the Middle Earth realm, so I am curious. The combat is universally being compared to Arkham Asylum, and this pleases me – I had a blast in AA. I’m not all that crazy about stealthy/rogue characters but for some reason rolling this kind of character seems appealing, probably because stabbing unsuspecting orcs in the neck looks sweet (this an aspect I loved about Dishonored. Pacifist? Psh. More like Knifeinfist). The only downside that I am ignorantly perceiving is just how big and playable this Middle Earth is. I lose interest pretty fast in an open world like this. I’ve never been one to dally around fulfilling countless side quests, so if, in SOM, I can blaze through the Main Quest line then I may actually sort of care about the game’s story – which is rare in video games – and complete the game!

On the other side is Black Flag. Boats! Pirates! Booty! Thanks to the thoroughness of gaming websites I have learned that BF is basically the Assassin’s Creed series saying, “Let’s set aside the lore for now. Let’s go be pirates!” AC3 is the only other game in the series I have played. It was alright. I didn’t complete the game but did I appreciate and applaud the historical backdrop. Any game that brings history to life receives an automatic nod from me. And I loved, loved, loved the naval battles, which, if I understand correctly, is amplified and embellished and a primary activity in Black Flag. I am a salty dog at heart (when I am not a cowboy or exiled monk) and this speaks to me. But I fear that the naval aspect will grow tiresome and I will be stuck back doing the same types of things that made my experience with AC3 fizzle out.

This is the battle. Only one will emerge the victor and the other shall sulk away – That is, until the winter sale when it will win unchallenged. Of course.