I just got four pounds of green coffee from Sweet Maria’s. I got a four pound sampler and I’m excited to break out my popcorn popper to do some roasting. Along with the fact that I find it fascinating to watch the beans roast and rewarding to drink a cup of coffee you made from scratch, my single previous experience with coffee roasting resulted in a very good cup of coffee at a price well below what you would pay for comparable quality coffee. Sweet Maria’s itself has a great guide to roasting coffee that I would highly recommend if you are interested in the process. It looks like a really good mix of coffees, although I need to get through the bag of Kroger Private Selection coffee that I have right now before I start roasting this. Still, excited to start trying it. I am using a Chemex (I think it is an 8 cup, I’ve had it long enough to forget) and decided today that I should invest in something that can make a smaller batch of coffee. Maybe it is my lack of skill, but I’ve had trouble making anything smaller than 16 ounces in the Chemex. That’s fine in the mornings, but there are a lot of days (usually weekends) when I really do just want to make a single cup of coffee. Not that I need more coffee stuff, but giving consideration to buying a Hario v60-02, which I hope will let me more consistently make a single cup of coffee.
Okay, so I finally beat the second chapter of Galak-Z and I’m still not sure how I feel about the game. There is certainly a skill to playing it. The different enemies are, well, different and you have to remember what each one can do and what they are susceptible to in order to be effective. Some of them you can strafe and some you can just whack a couple of times with your giant laser sword. To this point, I’m a little bummed that there aren’t many upgrades for your ship when it’s in (SPOILERS) giant robot form, but I can certainly say that the Roguelike element pays off when you go into a boss fight at the end of the fifth mission and you know that if you lose you are going to be sent all the way back to chapter 1. Still, I wish there was more carryover of power between missions. What Galak-Z is missing that I love in other Roguelikes is your slow ascension to steamroller status. The inevitability. I know that may be a less pure form of the genre, but the feeling in Dark Souls that even though you died, you managed to cash in your souls and get a little stronger is what makes the game playable. Without that and it’s just the frustration of getting to a ridiculous spot in Contra that you die at five times in a row and then have to start the game over. That has its appeal, too, but it’s less appealing to me.
I continue to play Rocket League, but I’ve noticed something recently that was not there the first few weeks: Toxicity. I’m not sure if it is just inevitable as the game gets more popular, but the community felt, well, communal for the first couple of weeks. Now it is a lot of people spamming the auto-text and complaining about their team in my experience. It’s cool to see a new stadium, though. It’s a really nice, bright, colorful place that I dig quite a lot. I had a bad run last night, though. I think I lost four out of five games. I felt like I was getting so much better, but it’s hard to gauge sometimes. Still, I intend to keep playing it for the foreseeable future.
Watching the Numenera: Into the Ninth World Kickstarter is crazy. They’ve received more than $130,000 in backing and have like 27 days left. The first book in the Into the Ninth World series is already written (a 160 page book taking Numenera into other planets and solar systems) with additional supplements lined up exploring the seas of Numenera as well as extra-dimensional exploration. There are also stretch goals already unlocked, like poster maps, a novel and some supplemental materials. Of course, Numenera’s core system (the Cypher System) is now available in a generic form, too, for those that want the system without the setting.
Life is about making choices. I find that many of the hardest choices I make are about how to waste my time. Ridiculous. There are so many shows and games and new albums that I find myself overwhelmed. I think this is normal. You just end up, you know, scrolling through Netflix for an hour, the only thing that will actually challenge you less than whatever you were going to watch. I continue to try to be better. To engage during my leisure time. I just listened to the Nerdist Podcast with
Brian Bryan Cranston. If you are even mildly interested it gets my highest recommendation. It’s an incredible, engaging listen. Tons of profanity so, you know, if that matters to you. Anyway, he said something to the effect of ‘I’d rather create than recreate” and I just thought that was a great quote. Inspired me to concentrate on writing tonight instead of playing games. We’ll see how that pans out.
Anyway, I got my copy of Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn and actually got it to the table. I used Coal and my wife used Maeoni. It played longer than I expected. Maybe just the learning curve? There’s a lot of text on the cards, being a Magic: The Gathering-like (I think we should just start using Magiclike as we use Roguelike to mean a card game that has many similiarities to M:TG. This does not apply to all trading card games, of course. Android: Netrunner is not a Magiclike (I bet someone has used this before, but I’m going with it), but Hex is. Hearthstone probably counts as well. Summon creatures destroy opponent.). Okay, so Ashes is a Magiclike. It does a lot of things I like. You can directly attack creatures. I never found myself hampered by the dice, which was nice. You redraw your hand every turn so you always have tons of options. It feels more tactical. Each person only gets to do a main action and a side action each turn, so it goes back and forth fast. Blocking exhausts a creature if you want to do damage back. Still, total playing time (including explanation) was almost two hours. Probably thirty minutes of that was explanation, but we played slow since it was the first time. I’d guess that a game will get down to 45 minutes to an hour. It will be great at that length. This was too long. Coal is a direct deck, summoning awesome looking Iron Rhinos and doing direct damage. I would not recommend Maeoni to someone without a lot of TCG experience (like my wife). She can only have three creatures at a time and is meant to build an engine of pumping her Silver Snakes until they destroy everything while absorbing the damage herself with her higher life. It’s a more complicated engine. The game comes with six decks (I would say prebuilt, but you actually have to assemble them yourself), so there’s a ton right there in the box. I still love the idea of being able to draft before a game. My wife said she liked it well enough, but it didn’t sound like a ringing endorsement. It’s a dense game that begs repeated plays, so I’m curious to see if (like Netrunner before it) I get it to the table enough to ever really get into the game and explore the engine.
I’ve gone back to playing Super Mario 3D World and a bunch of other Wii U games recently. It is basically my favorite set of games to revisit I have: SM3DW, Super Smash Bros., Mario Kart 8 and Splatoon. I find myself playing a couple of games of each (or a couple of levels in Mario’s case) and every one of them is brilliant. I’m still playing Rocket League a bunch, too. The ability to play the games in short bursts makes them really rewarding and interesting. I’ve improved drastically as a Rocket League player, although I did have the most embarrassing own-goal in my RL career last night in which I basically took the ball all the way down the court for the other team and scored a goal. I hope that adding zany courts and all that doesn’t splinter the playerbase too badly. It’s a brilliant game-as-sport and I really love it that way. I continue to work my way through Pillars of Eternity. It’s such a huge game that, as opposed to the other games I listed, with loads and the need to travel around it barely feels worth playing if I can’t play an hour. It’s really nice to have games where you feel like you’ve had a full experience in 10 minutes. Not all games need to be that, mind you, but it’s really nice when they are.
I also downloaded Galak-Z on my PS4. I got through the first chapter, and I think it has a lot going for it. Each chapter is made up of five levels and has permadeath. So if you lose on the fourth level, you go back to the first, but beating a chapter beats it permanently. It’s hard and you have to respect the enemies. Sometimes there is too much going on on the screen and you get lost. Or I do. It’s out for PS4 only right now, but will be out for PC later. It’s a game that requires you to slowly build skill and hope you get the right mix of powerups to beat the chapter. There are a few things that travel between stages with you (blueprints and Crash Coins, which start you with more money after you die the next time) but it doesn’t have the overall progression and growing feeling of power that you get from, say, Rogue Legacy. Instead, it’s a little more like playing an old NES game where a loss sends you all the way back to the start of the level. I can’t decide if it’s more frustrating or more rewarding. I guess it can be both. I do love the 1980’s space anime look (think Voltron or Macross/Robotech), though. That really makes the game for me.
I watched the first half of Ultima Lucha (Part 2) last week and then didn’t get around to watching the second half on Sling until Sunday since it was two hours long. Sadly, by that point it had gone off on demand and there are no re-airings scheduled for this week that I can find. I know that it may not be a ratings juggernaut, but I really wish El Rey (who had dropped reairing Lucha Underground on Saturday mornings in the past to my chagrin) would reshow the finale one more time. I’ve never seen it, but Alberto El Patron – Johnny Mundo was great. Vampiro – Pentagon Jr. (a true breakout star in Lucha Underground) was brutal. It was uncomfortable for me, as you think about all of the injuries previously suffered by Vampiro as well as seeing these guys literally bleed all over the floor. The humanity of the situation confirmed that I think that it is right that wrestling has moved away from that style for the most part. I loved the ending, though. I saw that Prince Puma – Mil Muertes is available for free on LU’s YouTube channel, so I’ll drop that below, but I’d really like to be able to watch the rest of the show. There’s a little profanity (from the crowd), but it’s great match. I also love they way they end this season overall. As over the top as it is, Lucha Underground has more tight, consistent stories than any other wrestling program I’ve watched in a long time. Plus that aesthetic. Looking forward to see what they do for a second season and – like many TV shows – a little glad to have a break to think about how much I enjoyed this one.