the walking writer

Tracer from Overwatch
I’ve been playing Blizzard games for as long as I can remember, starting back with the original Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo. I’ve sunk more hours than I care to admit into World of Warcraft (I do not play anymore). I’ve dabbled in Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm. Needless to say, I’m generally a fan of Blizzard’s games. When details about Overwatch first came out, I loved the art style and the character variety, but I wasn’t too sure about the genre. The last time I had played any sort of FPS was back in the Hexen days. A game, that I just realized, came out in 1995. Wow, I feel old.

Playing Heroes of the Storm introduced me to a level of toxicity that seemed even worse than the kind of chat one typically experiences while doing PVP battles in WoW. While I have developed a thick skin from being an active internet user for decades, I don’t really enjoy getting insults while I’m playing games. Heroes of the Storm is a fine game, but I didn’t really feel it was such an awesome game that it was worth dealing with the trolls to play. So, I was a little wary that the Overwatch community was going to be similar.

Due to various boring reasons that don’t need explanation, I didn’t buy Overwatch until a couple of weeks ago. I’m happy to say that the level of toxicity in the game is far less than I expected. Yes, there have been some mean comments, but it’s been pretty mild. The game does have a voice chat system, but I elected to turn it off when I first started playing. I understand that voice chat can be helpful for coordinating with your team, but the chance of having to listen to some kid mouth off is enough to make it not worth it.

For the record, I have no idea what it’s like in competitive play. I’m honestly not sure that I will try it. I wouldn’t be surprised if the atmosphere in competitive play is a “little” more tense though.

I’m also happy that my lack of any recent FPS experience hasn’t been a major hamper. Am I winning every match? Hardly, but the game offers plenty of characters to better suit your experience or lack of experience. If you’re not too sure about your aiming accuracy, for example, you can play Mercy, the game’s best healer. Playing a tank like D.VA or Reinhardt is also a good choice if you’re a little unsure about your shooting skill.

Overwatch is a fantastic game that is certainly worth checking out if you’ve been on the fence about it. I’m planning to post more things about it the future, including tips for new players.

A few weeks ago, EA released a new patch for The Sims 4 that ended the gender restrictions on hair, clothing and makeup when creating a Sim. The Sims series has a long history of being progressive and that is one of its most enduring qualities. I still remember when I realized while playing The Sims 2 that the game allowed for same-sex relationships. This patch was just another step in the game truly letting people create Sims that they can identify with.

I’m beyond pleased that this patch was released, but I am unhappy with the quality of work that went into recreating the clothing for the other gender. In many cases, it seems like only the smallest amount of work was put into the project, as the images below will illustrate.

Here’s a simple picture of a female Sim wearing “feminine” clothing. Everything looks smooth and fine here.

This is a picture of the same Sim wearing clothing tagged as “masculine”. Pay special attention to the chest and crotch area. The chest suddenly has jagged lines, the silhouette of the body has changed completely and the crotch is a bulky mess.

This outfit, however, is the real winner. I don’t even know where to begin to describe its many problems.

I cannot stress enough that I am exceptionally happy that EA finally lifted the restrictions so that people can create whatever Sim they want. It’s a wonderful addition that will add so much for many players. I just think that the players deserved better workmanship on the quality of the CAS parts. I’m hopeful that they might fix these issues in the future, but since many of the bugs in The Sims 4 are still around, months after complaints first surfaced, I’m not too optimistic.

Stardew Valley is a farming simulation game that was recently released on Steam. This amazing game was developed by one person and was inspired by the Harvest Moon series. Although I don’t have much experience with Harvest Moon, I’ve played (and loved) Rune Factory 3 and 4. I find this type of game very charming, so on the day Stardew Valley launched, I read a few reviews and quickly purchased it. Turns out, it was a smart choice and I’ve already put in quite a few hours into the game. This is not meant to be a comprehensive review; rather, it’s a just a collection of my thoughts as I’ve played the game.

A Fun and Engaging Beginning

The beginning of games of this type are always a little tricky. Some games don’t give you much to do when you start out; you have to play more to keep unlocking things. This is true in Animal Crossing: New Leaf and Harvest Moon: A New Beginning, among others. In Stardew Valley, you hit the ground running. There’s no long tutorial, unlike A New Beginning. You can immediately start exploring the town, plant some crops, fish, start making money and much more. The game gives you some directions in case you’re not sure what to do in the form of some easy introductory quests. There’s really nothing in particular that you have to do when you start; you can immediately take the game at your own pace doing whatever you want. Some things, of course, are not immediately available, such as the mine. But you’ll still have a long list of things you can do from the very beginning.

Fall in Stardew Valley.

Fall in Stardew Valley.

A Solid List of Characters

For the most part, Stardew Valley has a good cast of characters. A few of the characters seem a little flat, but I assume as you build up a relationship with them, you’ll learn more about them. I’ve already seen this with a couple of the townsfolk that my character has managed to befriend. I was impressed with the addition of Linius, a homeless man who lives in a tent and is on the fringes of Pelican Town. Where I live, homelessness is currently a very polarizing topic, so it is nice to see his story handled with care. A few of the female characters could use a little more variety; their portraits alone make them look very similar to each other (Penny, Leah, Jodi and Robin). I will say that overall, it’s nice to have only one character that seems to hate your guts right from the beginning, which is better than I’ve seen in other similar games.

The Bachelors and Bachelorettes

One of the first things I wondered about when I got the game was whether the player character could marry a bachelor or a bachelorette, regardless of the gender of the player’s character. I know for many people, it has been frustrating that you couldn’t marry whoever you wanted in the various Harvest Moon/Rune Factory games. I was pleased when I found out that you could marry either gender if you so wish. This adds a nice level of inclusion.

As for the choices themselves, I do wish there was a bit more variety. On the male side, I feel several of the choices are a bit too young. Sebastian, Alex and Sam seem like they’re supposed to be in high school. The same is true of a couple of the girls. I guess the point was to give players some variety, but I think I just wish the choices tipped a bit more to the older side. But, I don’t find the marriage aspect as important as the rest of the game, so it’s not a big deal to me.

Charming Music and Cute Art Style

The music of Stardew Valley is very peaceful and pleasant to listen to. While it may not be hugely memorable, it perfectly suits the atmosphere of the game. The game has a couple of types of music: music that fits the outdoor areas and the kind of music you might expect in a rural and rustic town. I love that the music changes with the seasons and matches very well with the weather. Summer’s music is nice and upbeat, while fall has a pleasant melancholy feel to it.

Stardew Valley’s art style is sort of a retro/pixel look that you’d expect from an older game, but it really works for this game. Even though your character sprite is quite small, you can still add detail to it and really make it your own. I’m sure that this simple style means that the game will run quite well on older computers and could potentially make a jump to mobile platforms.

Looking out into the ocean.

Looking out into the ocean.

As mentioned above, Stardew Valley was created by one person. ConcernedApe (his moniker) is active on Twitter and the Stardew Valley reddit (and perhaps others places as well). He’s already released several patches to fix some bugs and has mentioned future content that he’d like to add, including adding more to the post-marriage parts of the game. Multiplayer options are also on the to-do list. In other words, Stardew Valley has a lot of room for growth and is clearly cared for by its creator. It’s a refreshing thing to see a game get that much devotion from a developer.

A Single Tip for New Stardew Valley Players

You won’t have to look far to find long lists of tips from players to help you maximize your playtime. In my opinion, I think it’s best to skip these lists and just discover things on your own. Yes, you may end up needing to wait another season or even a year to accomplish a particular task, but I think it’s more fun to just play the game organically and focus solely on what you want to do. If you worry too much about optimizing the game, you’ll miss out on the fun and it will feel more like a job. Who wants to keep consulting a list of tips when you’re playing a game?

As is probably pretty clear, I think Stardew Valley is an exceptional game that is well worth the money and the time. It’s the type of game that can easily appeal to just about any type of gamer. I look forward to seeing what happens in the game’s future.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf is one of my favorite games on the 3DS. I’m certain that I’ve spent the majority of my playtime with that console on New Leaf. I resisted buying it for a long time because I had played one of its predecessors and just didn’t get the appeal. I’m happy that I finally bought it because I’ve certainly gotten my money’s worth from it. I have a few confessions from my years of playing it…

1. I haven’t checked on my town since Christmas.

Even though I feel like I’ve mostly done everything I want to do in the game, I still enjoy checking in with my villages and walking around my town. However, during the holidays, I didn’t have a chance to play much. So when I booted up the game, I discovered that Poppy, my favorite villager, was moving out the next day. Yes, she’s just a pile of pixels in the shape of an adorable squirrel, but I’m still sad to lose her. I wish the game had a vacation mode that would keep your town in stasis if you won’t be playing for an extended period.

I need to just get it over with already and start playing again. I wonder if the bamboo in my town has completely overtaken the empty spaces of land by now.

2. I can’t stand the jock villagers.

The jock villagers are really the only type that bother me, mostly because they call my mayor “ladybro.” Ugh. While all villagers are of a particular type, jock villagers seem to take their theme a bit too far, and their conversations are quite repetitive. I’m always annoyed when they move in, and I’m never sad when they finally move out of my town.

3. Tutu drives me nuts, but I still keep her around.

Tutu is a polar bear who is way too full of herself. Based on her dialogue, I actually thought she was a snooty villager until I checked and saw she is in fact a peppy villager. Even though she’s attempted to move several times, I stop her every time because she is one of my few remaining original villagers.

4. I’ve tried to place paths in my town, but I always end up deleting them.

I’ve seen some really amazing towns with beautiful paths and layouts. I’ve tried to do it in my own town several times, but I end up erasing the paths after a few days every single time. I think I’m just a bit too lazy to try to do the really complex paths.

5. I think my town is a random mess, but that’s okay.

I’m always impressed by the work and effort some players have put into their towns. I’ve visited some towns with neat themes that are fun to visit and inspiring. My town…is just sort of a conglomeration of random features. I can’t even decide on an orderly way to display flowers. As with The Sims, I’m not terribly great at planning layouts, but it’s still fun to play around with from time to time.

I haven’t had a chance to play The Sims 4: Get Together expansion too much yet, but I’ve loved what I’ve seen so far. When they first announced the expansion, I thought it was just basically more party stuff and not much else. When they fully explained the club aspect, however, my opinion changed. Now that I’ve played it, I can see that this expansion brings a new layer of interaction to the game. Instead of just having your Sim’s friends come over to your house and randomly play on your computer or take out your trash (what is up with that?), you can actually specify what the group does together. It seems so simple, but it’s really quite a new thing for the series. I’ve only set up one fairly boring club (they drink coffee and read books), but I’m sure I’ll do some more creative things with it soon.

Sims 4 Screenshot

My Sims enjoying the life-size chess set in Windenburg.

The new town of Windenburg is fantastic; it’s a very pretty place with some great places to hang out. For some reason, I was under the mistaken impression that Windenburg would be more like a vacation spot and not a place to live. I was thrilled to see your Sims can live there if you wish. The expansion also has the usual new clothes, hairs, build mode stuff and more. There’s some really good stuff in there that I’m looking forward to building with. I am a little sad that they didn’t add a new life state to this expansion, but on the other hand, I’m not sure that any of the life states really would have fit with the expansion’s flavor. Overall, I think Get Together is a excellent entry to the series and brings plenty of new life to the game.

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