Author Archives: Syl

Gaming Wishlist Updates

Great news: I’m still here! I haven’t kept up with blogging the past few months due to some unexpected turn of events at the new job and workload too heavy to allow for musing in the evenings. It’s never a good sign when real life manages to swallow so much of me that I can’t write; but I have managed to play more games again lately which is slowly restoring my sanity. So, hello – I’ve missed you!

What I’ve been playing

After a longer break from Overwatch, me and the better half are back in the saddle and have been enjoying and despising ourselves in equal amounts during competitive play. Overwatch is one of those games where there’s just no middle ground: you want to hug and kiss your team mates or see them burn in a fire for all eternity. Okay, maybe not quite that but matches can be incredibly intense and Blizzard are still utterly failing the community in terms of the streak rating and loot box systems in place. If the heroes weren’t so darn fun to play and the gameplay wasn’t as smooth as it is, I would probably move on to another title but none can currently compete with Overwatch in the fun team shooter segment.

20170901202231_1

After some debate, I also recently picked up “I am Setsuna” on steam and have enjoyed playing a very classic JRPG again. It’s true that “I am Setsuna” (which should really just be called “Setsuna”) is heavily influenced by the style and gameplay of FF6 and Chrono Trigger, having shamelessly cloned the battle system of the latter. Still, Setsuna is a very different beast, with a morose tone following a linear story to a rather predictable, depressing ending. The game never lightens up the mood and just as the entirety of the world remains firmly covered in snow, its soundtrack features an uncompromising list of wistful piano tunes. Despite all that, I have enjoyed my time there so far – it’s a beautiful game with beautiful art, excellent gameplay and nostalgic moments.

20170902201522_1

Updating the Wishlist

While I haven’t been able to play much this summer, I have tended to my steam wish list ever so often. I am quite excited about some of the games, so here’s a short list of titles I added more recently:

  • Cuphead: a fantastic looking 2D platform shooter inspired by 1930ies cartoons, this game promises to be soul-crushingly difficult yet exciting to play in coop. I am worried the bosses may indeed be too frustrating for myself +1 but I fully intend to pick it up, anyway!
  • Ooblets: the complete opposite to Cuphead, I get a sweet zen vibe looking at Ooblets footage and any game inspired by Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon is cool in my book.
  • Wonder Boy TDT: Wonder Boy is back yet again! Love the visuals, love the IP and really looking forward to play a good old action adventure again sometime.
  • Rime: this game has been out for a while and is lauded as a spiritual successor to ICO or The Last Guardian. I am more than skeptical about this tall order but curious enough to wanna give Rime a go sometime.
  • Ni No Kuni 2: the sequel to the stunning Wrath of the White Witch is gracing PC in January 2018. I was sad the first title remained console exclusive, so its second installment is high up on my radar.
  • Epic Tavern: this game looks like a bit of fun and has been composed for by fabulous MMORPG composer Neil Acree. Taverns were always among my favorite things in RPGs and MMOs so this “epic tavern management RPG” sounds right in my alley.
  • Destiny 2: I’ve played the Destiny 2 open beta last weekend and have been enjoying myself quite a bit. By all accounts, the sequel to Destiny seems to have learned from the missteps of the first title, so I’m willing to give it a shot this time around for its exquisite aesthetics and gameplay alone.

I always like to have a few games to look forward to play during the long winter weekends and Xmas break. In terms of MMOs, I recently updated Wildstar and GW2 for what its worth. There’s also the FFXIV expansion I’d really like to play when I get the time! I used to be a Red Mage in FFXI and was thrilled to hear they finally added the class. Which games are you looking forward to play this fall and early winter season?

100 Episodes!

The Battle Bards podcast is turning 100 episodes old today. What began in March 2013 is still a bi-weekly show of MMO music celebration with Steff, Syp and myself co-hosting and bickering about soundtrack picks. It’s been a lot of fun over the past 4 years and our 100th episode is all about looking back and discussing some of our favorite Battle Bards moments.

Many thanks to all our listeners out there who’ve made this such a enjoyable ride over the years! Everyone sharing and keeping in touch over twitter – I really appreciate it. :) The podcast is a labor of love and we do it as much for the other MMO music fans out there as we do it for ourselves.

Onward to another 100 episodes! I R ready.

Dear Developers, Inventory Management isn’t fun!

Inventory Management isn't fun!One of the biggest, if not the biggest gripe I am having with LOTRO ever since my return, is inventory management. Not only am I squinting at small icons and tooltips in lieu of proper UI scale, the bags in LOTRO are one big mess and the amount of vendor trash is horrifying. There’s the option to assign individual slots to each bag nowadays and auto-order everything but that doesn’t change that you are constantly clearing out stuff and making room while painstakingly selling unwanted knickknacks at an equally terrible vendor window.

I spend enormous amounts of time clearing my bags in LOTRO despite having bought several of the cash shop inventory expansions. Bank and wardrobe space are equally unsatisfying unless you are ready to spend a lot of extra cash. As a VIP subscriber, I find this state of affairs rather unacceptable.

This particular gripe is one we may forgive in older MMOs but they’re absolutely GNARF in newer titles! So imagine my surprise when I learned that both Project Gorgon and upcoming Ashes of Creation have their own ideas about making players micro manage inventory space. For Project Gorgon it’s the general issue of limited bagspace vs. realism (05:30 onward) and for AoC it will be restricted inventory space (02:30 onward) paired with what sounds like pretty cumbersome inventory “escort travel” in order to move goods from one place to the next, BDO style.

OH JOYYY.

After 15 years of MMOing, I do not know a single MMO player who enjoys spending time sorting and moving around inventory; limited storage, tedious micro-management of too many (useless) items and having to move around inventory that’s bound to location, are decidedly unfun activities after a short time. This is not the kind of mini-game I want to spend my precious time on while playing games!

I get that for some titles, there’s the concern of realism playing into such concepts so okay, let’s keep it real: “yay, I get to spend another 30 minutes moving my goods from A to B for the tenth time” – said no MMO player ever! There’s realism to further gameplay satisfaction and there’s completely obsolete and dated MMO mechanics, such as armor decay, vendor trash, local auction houses and yes, inventory micro-management!

Let me have my generous and globally accessible bag and bank space already and spare me the plethora of vendor trash junk when I could just be looting coin or crafting resources, preferably ending up in their designated crafting storage. It’s tragic when we can’t see our special drops and purples anymore in a sea of broken sword hilts, pinewood ash heaps and rabbit hides. This stuff needs to go, folks – free our bag space!

LOTRO 10 Year Anniversary: Community

Roger has a special post up remembering his past 8 years in LOTRO for the game’s currently ongoing 10th anniversary event. I joined LOTRO late in 2013 but I recognize the special nostalgia and fond memories of the early player from my own time with WoW where I was a regular from the US beta up until the beginning of Cataclysm. That is a very long time to be invested in an MMO world. Looking back even as an ex-player of WoW today, there is so much to be thankful for but nothing more important than the people: the social encounters, the friendships and the guilds.

2013-02-03_00021

Without community, MMOs are just a very large online world. A beautiful world for sure and one that’s worth exploring but hardly worth sticking around for years and years. More so even that virtual property, I believe the thing that glues us to MMOs are other people – the only truly unscripted thing that shall remain unpredictable forever.

Early MMO camaraderie, as described by Roger, is a special thing that tends to wane as MMOs become more streamlined and well explored. Internet databases have done their share of replacing some of the social interaction and seem to grow ever faster for every new game that gets released. I remember a time in WoW when everyone knew everyone on a server and world chat would buzz with support. That was long ago in WoW and long ago in LOTRO.

20170417023238_1

Stranger things will happen at 2am in the Prancing Pony…don’t ask

As a recent LOTRO return however, I can say that at least for Laurelin, “the EU RP server”, server channels are still fairly active and friendly. Zone chat is dead for some reason and maybe it was never a thing, but you do generally get advice in world chat. Places like the Prancing Pony are well frequented and always good for a stop to listen to a bard play or take part in shady night time activities. There is also an inexplicable amount of generous and supportive players in general who will whisper you after a noobish question or come meet you to y’know…trade you gear upgrades for no reason or let you copy their cosmetics for the wardrobe. Both has happened to me within 3 days of play.

It seems relatively difficult to find groups for old content however which is something I struggle with in Moria. LOTRO’s dungeon finder seems to be a completely ignored feature by a majority of folk, so I was encouraged to use LFF chat for Grand Stair and Hall of Mirrors. It took the better part of Sunday afternoon just to find 5 other people willing to run HoM twice since that is the required amount of runs to complete the quests there. It was a very friendly and fun group however and I ended up getting invited to their cross-fellowship channel.

20170418215046_1

Despite some grouping difficulties, just having company out there to chat or listen to and knowing you’re not alone, creates much of my enjoyment in MMOs even when I’m running solo (the other important parts being exploration and world building but you knew that already). Now that I’ve re-subscribed to LOTRO and intend to make up for lost time in Middle-Earth, it was an obvious next step to join a casual but active guild once more. I had been part of a bunch called the Grey Guard in 2013 who were kind enough to accept and not kick me after 3 years of absence, but it’s been very quiet after my return and I’ve felt rather lonely and behind even more so than in 2013. Thankfully, a kind offer by Roger to join his long term kinship has arrived at what seems the perfect time! I am back in the saddle and back among people who still enjoy an MMO they’ve been attached to for years – a warm and familiar feeling.

Returning to LOTRO

I have been AWOL from blogging for a while, due to full-time work and lack of gaming interests this past Q1. Real life is in a state of stress right now as I am taking further education starting May while also losing my temporary contract at the current employer end of this month. What better time to start an expensive management course than entering unemployment? It’s not exactly as I had planned it all out but such is the risk one takes with accepting fixed term contracts. As someone who tends to trust the inevitable turns in her life, I like to say it’s all for the best as I didn’t exactly belong in that industry and felt increasingly lonely in my position. Life is a constant approximation effort between where we are and where we’d like to be. But yeah, job hunting is tiring and I hope I can settle somewhere permanent again soon.

20170412203725_1

Meanwhile some of my gaming spirits have returned with spring. I picked up the amazing Hollow Knight which Eri justly treats as GOTY material – the game play, atmosphere, combat, art and music are just that good! I’ve also had a stab at Night in the Woods and Osiris: New Dawn, the latter being a very promising up-and-coming space survival sim that already looks and plays great for early access. (I got a copy of that one for free, I learned my EA lessons.)

With gaming being back on the table, what I have really lacked for some time now is an MMO to return to, a casual place to hang, do a few quests and smell the roses. FFXIV has been that for me over the past 2 years but I’ve felt increasingly bored with dungeon running and replacing tier after tier of endgame gear. I like to play FFXIV in intervals these days, catching up on story content after longer periods of time. FFXIV is a beautiful world but it does not have the same “come hang” homey appeal that WoW used to have or LOTRO.

20170413212748_1

Which brings me to LOTRO, my favorite MMO that I’m not playing: looks like I am back! I always had a score to settle with Moria – that terrible, tedious 40ies level grind that comes before it and did my head in last time I played. After realizing Turbine had left me with over 10k of virtual currency for that extra year of subscription I didn’t use in 2015 and also, some friendly pep-talk by the twitter instigation unit, I’ve returned to Middle-Earth and I’m glad, I did!

After spending the Easter weekend questing in Eregion, I’ve finally conquered the Hollin Gate and entered the hallowed halls of Durin. It seemed easier leveling this time around but maybe it was just my renewed enthusiasm for the game. Middle-Earth has always held a special spell over me and despite all the things that are pretty terrible in LOTRO, from inventory management to combat, the world, music and people have always mattered more. I’ve only been back a few days and already had more friendly encounters and met more silly helpful people on Laurelin than I otherwise would in years.

20170417213945_1

It’s good to be back. I intend to ignore all the things that made LOTRO so daunting in the past – the endless deeds and crafts and rep grinds. I’ve managed to make some sense of the legendary weapon system at least and am leveling my Anathema+Necronomicon on the Lore Master as we speak. My character is still impressively ugly but apparently the Standing Stones folks still have every intention of updating the character models sometime soon. It’s good to see the new devs having plans for LOTRO and that 10 year anniversary event coming up tomorrow! Looks like the perfect time to re-subscribe if you were ever considering it.

20170417210738_1

A big shout-out to Ravanel who was kind enough to help me craft some great looking gear for my struggling Lore Master! I finally feel like I have a character I like to stick with for longer.

About Life, MMOs and the Good Old, Bad Times

It is one of the never-ending discussions among MMO veterans: the golden days of MMOing. The glory days of our youth when MMOs were green and so were we. When treasure was rare and special and punishment plentiful and quick. Today, we miss the hardship of the unknown, the unexplored mystery, the dependence on other people. Fond memories of our beginnings and the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia keep the past locked firmly in our mind like a place of legend.

wowclowns

…minus the wardrobe, maybe

If only we could recreate the past. And why can’t we – are we the problem? The games? Our missing fellows? I have once concluded on this blog that the fairest answer to this question is probably “a bit of everything” but also, that there are only so many times that we can fully invest in a new MMO and commit to a new world and community. Witty strips such as “A decade of love and hate” by DLC or Arcade Rage’s “Gamer problems: Then and Now” make painfully obvious that MMOs haven’t objectively gotten worse; they’ve changed in some ways but also really stayed the same and they have certainly become more varied and accessible overall. None of this can explain our personal discontent. No, the answer lies elsewhere.

Chasing that which cannot be preserved

How many times over can you build a virtual life from scratch until it feels like a deja-vu and grind and the fatigue kicks in? How many social bonds can you possibly establish and maintain? I say no more than you could do in real life; there may be one big love for you during your life’s journey, or two or three. For most of us, that is the limit of our capabilities and time too only allows for so many iterations. It is the same with circles of friends or careers – the boldest among us will recreate themselves and their world a few times over during the course of their life but time and energy remain limiting factors.

It is our misconception that MMOs should somehow follow a different rule set. That something as profound and time consuming as virtual life, and WoW was that for many (just to name one possible MMO), should be repeatable over and over and never wane in its glory and impact. But how could that be? The best of things and the most meaningful must all eventually bow to finality.

bbs02

Looking back, I can say that I’ve had three serious and longterm MMO experiences or “relationships” in my life between age 20 and 35. Maybe five titles altogether have really managed to consume me for a time and make me care about people I met. However every time, it got a bit more difficult; every time I’ve felt my energy resources, my ability to care and my patience for things like ingame appointments and wait times, deplete faster.

“I have done this before – I have been here. Yet it is not the same.”

We cannot recreate our MMO youth any more than we can go back to our teenage years or our twenties. With every decade added to our life, we become more experienced which means we become more critical and picky. The roads become downtrodden and the mysteries familiar. And we have limited resources both internally (energy) as well as externally (time). The games haven’t gotten worse or better, they’ve become different – but we are different, too. And longing for the good old, bad times is merely a product of our bewilderment that life, real and virtual, is constant progress and contradiction: some things change but they also largely stay the same.

That’s why we can love and hate the past all at once, feel relief over progress made but also miss our friends and treasure our memories. (MMO) Life is complex like that.

So have you heard about Ashes of Creation?

One of the greatest things about blogging for a longer period of time is followers coming up to you saying “you’re wrong about that” or “you forgot this”. This is genuinely beneficial and helpful in so many ways even if it ends in heated debates and disagreements sometime. At the best of times, we discover new viewpoints or just new THINGS we never heard of – and new games! So it happened with my last week’s post where I researched upcoming MMOs in 2017-2018 to get excited about. Shortly after, a friendly person on twitter poked me to ask:

Have you heard about Ashes of Creation?

I admit that I hadn’t up to now! I am aware of few titles from the more distant future, like Amazon’s New World, but I missed last December’s news on the big Ashes of Creation reveal and first look video on environments. So it appears there is another big scope classic MMORPG title in the works currently, by former SOE and Daybreak MMORPG developers no less – who knew? After some research, it does not appear that Dave G. is part of the crew however, in case you were wondering!

ashes of creation first look

An Ashes of Creation First Look

Ashes of Creation development started 2016 which means the title is still a long way off and additional crowdfunding via kickstarter is planned to go up at some point. At a first glance, the game aims to follow the classic fantasy MMO formula, doing a little bit of everything with a focus on dynamic world building. This was something promised in EQN and we’ve yet to see a bigger title actually deliver on this front, so color me interested. Another feature that jumps out immediately is Intrepid Studio’s approach to housing which, according to their FAQ, is going to be both open world as well as instanced –

Q: Can I own land?
A: Our land owning system has an integrated personal housing and farming system to allow players to claim land in the open world. This land is the same static size for all players. You may then acquire blueprints for structures to build on that land, such as a home, stables for animal husbandry, crafting stations and more. In addition to open world housing, you will also be able to own homes within a Node itself; these homes will grow as the Node does, from a small cottage to a sprawling mansion! Certain Nodes will also have instanced housing. (source)

While there’s no definite word on the 8 different races and classes as of now, the different info on the housing and node systems make me wonder if there will be full non-combat classes? Many open questions like these are likely to be answered in the coming months and it’s worth checking out MoP’s interview with lead designer Jeffrey Bard as well as MMOGame’s recent interview with founder Steven Sharif for further inside info. From the many provided answers, I definitely prefer the below one from Syp’s interview:

Q: How will this game differentiate itself from everything else that’s out there or that is in the making?

A: Our hook is deeply integrated gameplay. When players first log in, they’re going to see Creation, beaten and broken. Outside of some few outposts of huddled masses, civilization doesn’t exist. It will be up to the players to invest life into the world, and bring villages, towns and cities into being. At the same time, they will need to protect what they’ve built, from the creatures they’ve disturbed in returning civilization to the world, as well as from each other. (source)

ashes of creation first look

It’s the one million question: How is your MMORPG different from those that came before it? Considering how 99% of all MMOs start their player journeys the same way, the above statement is great news! Maybe Ashes of Creation will be the first title to really tell a story from the other end – from a world of destruction and desolation that’s waiting for players to rebuild and heal the land. Too often have we started our journeys in the sheltered lands of Elwynn Forest, Queensdale or The Shire, only to meet our inevitable Mount Doom as endgame progressed. How many times can we stomach traveling from soft greens and golden colors to black, brown and lava red?

To hear a developer say “we’re flipping the coin” is actually pretty exciting! It’s early days but yeah, consider Ashes of Creation added to my list of hopefuls. I guess they need to come up with a new shorthand though, AoC is already taken folks!

Which MMOs to look forward to in 2017 and beyond?

I mentioned in my recent New Year’s post that I no longer look forward to any upcoming MMORPGs in 2017 and beyond. In fact, I have a hard time remembering many titles and the ones I do know, aren’t exactly my cup of tea. Judging from the reactions within my twitter verse, I am far from alone in this sentiment.

Now others have pointed out of course that gaming has never been more diverse and better than today and that is completely true. I can return to established MMORPGs and still find a lot of content to play through and get busy with. But with way fewer new projects on the horizon, I will still miss the excitement of looking forward to something new, diving into unknown worlds with other people. That’s just something I have always loved, that newcomer feel and collective excitement.

This encouraged me to actually go and do some research on upcoming MMORPGs for 2017 – 2018. As expected, it’s a different world from few years ago but I still managed to identify a few titles that may pique my interest in time:

Chronicles of Elyria

elyria01

There’s been some buzz around this title for a while now and I admit some of the developer’s ideas, such as aging and living through several lifespans with your characters, sound interesting. As a kickstarted project it’s got a lot to prove but there’s no harm in following what already looks like a fairly promising indie project. Release date estimated at Dez 2017 earliest, so double that probably.

Pantheon, Rise of the Fallen

pantheon

I know next to nothing about the great Everquest legacy and its associated heroes but I’m reading “high fantasy open world” and “focus on social and group play” and yeah you got me, I’m desperate! Bhagpuss has recently brought this title to my attention again and I’ve always trusted his savvy on the classics such as EQ and Vanguard, so color me mildly interested in Pantheon (once I got over the graphics, anyway)! Alpha/beta testing to be commenced in 2017 – release date who knows!

BLESS

bless

BLESS is a Korean title set in a medieval fantasy world, composed for by legend Hans Zimmer which has caught my attention in the past. While the game inhabits the crowded space of “very pretty looking, grindy Asian MMOs with ingame shops” together with upcoming Revelation Online, its overall aesthetic is significantly more mature (no colorful wings either which is good news). Like Revelation Online, BLESS is another F2P title, so I may or may not find myself downloading the client at a very weak moment of MMO desperation. That is, if it’s actually available sometime – a somewhat curious topic of late!

….Aaaand that’s it! This is already the end of my list for 2017 – 2018 MMOs and this summary frankly hasn’t done much to lift my spirits. Granted, I am a fantasy MMORPG traditionalist, so PvP titles like Camelot Unchained or Crowfall are missing. These are no doubt interesting titles to a select audience but they ain’t mine. Are there any other upcoming games I should know of – and if so, where are they hiding??? :halp:

A Year in Review: Top 2016 Games and Soundtrack!

2016 has come and gone and if my social channels are any indication, most people people are glad to leave this arbitrary number behind. I don’t personally believe 2016 was the awful year it’s made out to be in the media but it’s certainly been exhausting on a personal level, despite some successes on the writing and day-job front. I’ve pushed myself to leave the safety (and lull) of a stable workplace for more flexible and lucrative work that doesn’t come with the security of a permanent contract. While I am content with my progress thus far, it’s also a stressful situation to be in at times and my constant struggle to find peace of mind inside our daily grind remains one of life’s great challenges. Alas!

top 2016 games and soundtrack2016 wasn’t a rocking year for me gaming wise, either. I arrived with humble expectations and browsing through my blog and steam library, I realize I’ve played much less than in years before. This was also definitely not a year of MMORPGs and I find myself in that strange position now where I am no longer looking forward to a single upcoming MMO title in 2017 and beyond. It’s a weird and melancholic feeling because MMOs have been a big part of my life for the past 15 years. With the exception of Black Desert Online, I’ve barely played anything besides some brief visits to Eorzea in the first half of the year. MMORPG players have seen this coming for a while and it certainly feels like our favorite genre has come to somewhat of a halt; that is, if you’re not still a follower of well-established titles such as WoW or GW2.

My Top Video Games of 2016

For reasons explained above, my past year in gaming wasn’t all about the MMOs. While I still haven’t gone back to GW2 for the expansion, two of last year’s expectations did hold true and then, it’s also been a year of small, unexpected delights. Without further ado, here are my top 5 titles of 2016:

top 2016 games and soundtrack

5. Owlboy
Owlboy by developer D-Pad Studio only came out in November 2016 and while I haven’t finished playing it, it’s already fulfilled all my expectations in terms of being a fun adventure with beautiful visuals and music. There are some unforgettable moments and quirky characters in Owlboy that make it a safe choice for anyone into whimsical and charming adventure platformers that aren’t overly complex. Only minor gripe: no keymapping for gamepads!

top 2016 games and soundtrack

4. Portal Knights
I’ve praised the concept, visuals and soundtrack of Portal Knights on MMOGames and if you ever wondered how a minecraft sandbox meets level-based gameplay would play, this is the title to grab! The game is especially fun for short-session gameplay together with up to 3 other players (also great for kids), while you can still put those solo hours to good use, base-building, gathering and crafting. Controls and GUI management aren’t perfect in Portal Knights but definitely manageable.

top 2016 games and soundtrack

3. The Witcher 3 (DLC)
The Witcher 3 was my GOTY in 2015 and remains my most beloved RPG title of this year – and possibly all eternity. I’ve lived and breathed the Wild Hunt again over the Xmas holidays and I am still so impressed and delighted by this title, I got no words! Not surprisingly, the Hearts of Stone and Blood&Wine expansions have been nominated for great honors again in 2016. I’ve only started to catch up now and intend to make the most of what CD Projekt Red have stated will be their only Witcher 3 expansions! :sadface:

top 2016 games and soundtrack

2. Black Desert Online
I’ve spent copious amounts of time in BDO between spring 2016 and summer, exploring its fantastic persistent world, writing guides for its complicated subsystems, joining a guild and decorating my house. While the game has had its issues and share of monetization scandals, it is still one hell of an experience for anyone looking to explore and travel a magnificent MMO world solo! I never reached PVP “endgame” in BDO and didn’t care to, but I had fun with almost everything else including its different approach to combat. The game remains an “alone together” experience for anyone not looking to join competitive PVP which is good or bad, depending on your personal viewpoint!

top 2016 games and soundtrack

1. GOTY: Overwatch!
There is no way around giving Blizzard the credit that is their due: they knocked it out of the park with Overwatch in 2016. As far as impressive comebacks go, only Square-Enix have managed a similar feat with a Realm Reborn – a persistence we rarely get to see in the video game industry. From the ashes of Titan, Blizzard have salvaged not just an incredibly accessible and fun hero shooter but one that’s so full of charming characters and iconic lines and gameplay moments, the Overwatch roster is already as popular as any other Blizzard IP heroes. I gave this game a 9/10 and there’s nothing else to add here, Overwatch was one hell of a successful release in 2016!

Best Soundtrack of the Year

As far as great VGM went in 2016, I’m sticking with the tradition of my annual youtube recap which you can find below! It’s been a good year for video game soundtrack and the Battle Bards podcast keeps going strong, counting its 4th anniversary soon. There’s been an official twitter account now for a while, too. I am still having as much fun as ever talking MMO music with fellow bards Syp and Steff.

Top VGM of 2016 list:

12. Civilization VI
11. Destiny: Rise of Iron
10. Overwatch
9. Enter the Gungeon
8. Hyper Light Drifter
7. Stardew Valley
6. Owlboy
5. Portal Knights
4. The Last Guardian
3. Revelation Online
2. WoW Legion
1. Black Desert Online

Let me know what your favorite video game soundtrack has been of late and another Happy New Year to all of you! Let’s see what 2017 will bring in terms of digital delights and virtual world travel – it’s all a blank open space for me from this point forward!

Non-Gamey Creative Projects

I’ve not been playing too many games of late, mostly because work has been too busy and pre-XMAS time is usually packed with birthday parties and other social events over here. I’ve started tackling several home improvement projects too, such as turning our spare guest room into an atelier / hobby room so I can get back to some of the crafty hobbies I used to pursue, like water coloring or pottery. I’m also madly in love with bottle charms right now which is a project I definitely want to have a go at, soon – how cute are they?!

charms

image @ deviantart.com

I’ve been doing more cooking experiments again, baking a little (although I’m not very good at that) and trying recipes from my childhood. I love Asian cuisine, particularly Middle-Eastern and Thai food and I’m slowly getting into a bit of Japanese cooking too. I had the opportunity to enjoy some Okonomiyaki (aka Japanese savoury pancakes) the other day which are easy to prepare, highly flexible and very tasty if you’re into cabbage. I am definitely gonna make more of that!

My most recent project is a 30L nanocube aquarium which I received as an early birthday present from the better half. We’ve had many different fish tanks over the years, starting off small with fish like Tiger barbs before upgrading to bigger tanks with Mbuna cichlids, then downgrading again to only a single fish tank with one grumpy looking Channa Pulchra (snakehead). I’ve had a thing for siamese fighting fish, aka Bettas, for a while now and since they’re a solitary breed perfect for smaller tanks, a nanocube is a great solution that also fits perfectly in my gamer room. Meet Rubeeo!

rubioo

I’ve spent the weekend planting an all natural habitat for my new roomie, including sand substrate and plenty of water plants to allow for cover and a sleeping nest. Betta Splendens tend to “park” themselves on big leaves or shrubbery for rest which is incredibly cute to watch. They’re labyrinth fish, meaning  they breathe atmospheric air that gets stored in a special organ in their head, and they’re bubble nest breeders which is rather interesting if you’re into observing the natural behavior of animals. Bettas are obviously popular for their splendid colors first and foremost but there’s a lot more to them and personally, I like how attentive and responsive these little guys are.

Planting the nanocube was very enjoyable and I’m already thinking of ways to improve my initial setting – although for now, what it really requires is patience. I hope that my carpet plants will expand over the coming months for a fully overgrown ground level. Aqua Scaping is a patient art and there’s a lot you can learn on the way to an all-natural looking and balanced underwater environment. I’ve a feeling this could be pretty addictive too!

What creative endeavors have you been up to lately?