Value For Money? (No Man’s Sky)

I’ve played a bit more of No Man’s Sky since I last wrote about it and I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about it. I’m not getting a massive urge to play it anymore and when I do I’m only entertained for short bursts at a time (motion sickness and headaches are also a problem forcing me to cut sessions short.) The amount I’ve paid for it keeps playing on my mind. I don’t like to throw in the towel too early as I’ve had experiences in the past where I’ve hated a game, loved it, hated it again and so on. There’s this idea that a game should grip you within the first five minutes, but I think we can make a few exceptions as there have been some titles that I would have regretted giving up on early (Eve, Don’t Starve and Dark Souls.) Some experiences get more exciting as we master the system. My tastes can also change so long as I keep an open mind.

No Man’s Sky has been an interesting release due to how opinions about it seem to be so polarised. Some people love it, others are bitterly disappointed. In my case I didn’t have any hype for the game and hadn’t thought about it much until the week before launch. That’s when I received some birthday vouchers and researched a few options to spend them on. I have to admit I had a few uncertainties about No Man’s Sky as I struggled to find clear information about what the gameplay involved. I kept seeing the same footage that had been revealed years before – a game can change a lot in that time. There was still enough there to convince me to take the risk and my curiosity got the better of me. Even if I’d waited a while I think I would have still gotten curious at some point. I like to experience games first hand so that I can form my own opinions before any hype or hate can colour them.

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The Source of my Creative Anxiety

Following a creative pursuit can require a lot of resilience. I love hearing the stories of other creative individuals regardless of their interests because creative anxiety is a common issue linked to many disciplines. There’s no easy way to deal with it, but neither is it an unusual problem. When we create something we are pouring much of ourselves into the project and it can be difficult to emotionally detach from the outcome. We might have been working on that same project for a long time and could have made sacrifices to bring it to completion. We risk leaving ourselves open to criticism as we attempt to share our ideas with others, hoping that they’ll understand what we are trying to accomplish.

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Celebrate The Small Things: 12 August

I did my first bit of decorating ever. I wanted to help my sister with sorting out her new house and painted a few walls. I was thoroughly impressed with myself considering that it was my first time and around some awkward corners and angles. Her partner also has a rule that anybody who helps out will not go hungry, so I was fed and offered lots of chocolate treats in turn – well worth it. I’m wanting to learn a lot of this stuff anyway so that I’m ready for when we move into our own house. We keep having conversations about how amazing it’ll be to finally get our lives started, although it’s also slightly overwhelming.

No Man’s Sky was out this week, which was something to look forward to checking out. Yay, new shiny game feel. I’ve got the night in so I’m going to get some snacks while I spend my time exploring the universe. I’ve also become obsessed with the film Metropolis as we finally got a copy in. My sister and I had been wanting to watch this old sci-fi film for a long time. I wasn’t sure at first as I’d never seen a silent movie before, but was amazed at how engaging it was considering the age of the film. This film has inspired lots of things, like the Queen video Radio Ga Ga. I get excited when I discover enjoyment in new things. They inspire me.

It’s time for Comic Con again so it’ll be a fun weekend.

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Celebrate the Small Things is a weekly celebration created by VikLit and now hosted by Lexa Cain to celebrate the happenings of the week, however small or large. You can learn all about it and sign up for it here.

 

 

Pokémon Go Tips

I started Pokémon Go a little bit later than my friends did, but have managed to catch up much to everyone’s surprise. I don’t think I go out as often as they do either, but I’ve been very careful in how I’ve used my items. So here are a few tips that I followed to get a good start:

  • I didn’t power up my Pokémon right away as this is a waste of stardust. You catch better Pokémon later anyway.
  • I caught everything to begin with, especially Pidgey. Only 12 Candy is required to upgrade a Pidgey. You can get a lot of experience from upgrading so I use a lucky egg beforehand. I like to fully upgrade a Pokémon before powering it up too.
  • Eggs are another good way to gain experience as well as stardust and rare Pokémon, so always make sure to fill the incubators before going for a walk. Some incubators have limited use; To get the most out of them it’s better to fill these with the larger eggs.
  • Plan a route that will allow you to pass 10 different Pokéstops within 30 minutes. After the 10th you’ll receive double experience and twice as many items.
  • If petals appear around a Pokéstop a lure has been used, which will attract more to that location. If I’m taking a break from walking I like to position myself over a couple of stops with lures. The stops also reset after 5 minutes (the icon will fade from pink to blue) and you can use them again.
  • Go for walks at different times of the day. The type of area you are in will also affect which Pokémon will appear.
  • When catching a Pokémon holding your finger over the pokéball will cause a reticule to appear. The colour of the ring indicates the difficulty. The smaller the ring the better the chance of catching. You can also use berries and better Pokéballs to increase chances.
  • Good throws get you bonus experience while catching, indicated by text that pops up, ‘Nice!’ ‘Great!’ or ‘Excellent!’
  • The Pokéball can also be spun to create a curve ball, increasing the chance of capture and adding a small amount of bonus experience.
  • Before powering up a Pokémon I check its moves first. I prefer to have different types if possible.
  • We also use the Google Opinion Rewards app. You can fill out short surveys for rewards which can be put towards Pokécoins. You can also get coins from placing Pokémon in the gyms. As soon as you do go to the store to claim the reward. You will then need to wait for it to reset before you can claim another.
  • To save on battery turn on the saver mode in the settings, turn off AR when catching and lower the brightness of your screen. We also got a battery charger to enable us to lengthen our walks.

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No Man’s Sky First Impressions

I didn’t understand why there was so much hype around No Man’s Sky. Every video I watched emphasized the scale of it, but offered very little on the actual gameplay. As the release date drew closer I became more intrigued, but was still on the fence about it. When too many promises are made in regards to the scale of a game it makes me wary because  there are limitations in regards to budget and time. Put too much work into one area and usually the project will suffer elsewhere. I much prefer quality over quantity. It’s cool to think that there’s this massive universe to be explored, but the majority of it will go untouched and as such I’d rather have a small and well designed area with the illusion of scale as opposed to lots of similar content that I’ll never see. I also suspected that the game might suffer from that problem of being really exciting to begin with – at the thought of all the potential space can bring – just to quickly lose engagement in its players due to the lack of goal driven things to do. A larger scale usually slows down the pace of a game too, as there could be a lot of travelling from A to B with nothing of interest in-between. Despite my doubts I eventually caved and put in a pre-order as curisosity got the better of me. I love the idea of being able to freely move between planets and while there are lots of space games available to buy, I’m still searching for the right one.

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Celebrate The Small Things: 5 August

It was my birthday this week. We went to the zoo where they now have Giant Otters. Followed this up with a meal at my favourite restaurant. We attended a show called Kynren a few days prior, covering the history of England from when the Romans and Vikings came right up to World War II. It was spectacular, performed by thousands of volunteers and utilising lights and music to great effect. Luckily the weather was also warm that night. Tonight we plan to have one final treat for this week and will be getting a takeaway pizza, while watching films and playing games.

I’ve been following more drawing tutorials this week. It seems to be getting easier to keep at it every day. I guess this is now becoming more of a habit. I’ve also began making plans for a visual novel I’d like to create, and I’m hoping that my skills at drawing characters will be much better by the time I’ve gotten the story figured out.

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Celebrate the Small Things is a weekly celebration created by VikLit and now hosted by Lexa Cain to celebrate the happenings of the week, however small or large. You can learn all about it and sign up for it here.

Consistent Practice Builds Skills

On the games programming course I did there was only myself and one other that had come from a creative background. Everybody else had taken maths and science courses prior to starting. This knocked my confidence as I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to fit in. However, there were definitely some areas where my different mindset was a benefit. Some of our classes required us to create animations. I got a fair bit of attention for my work as only a few of us had the skills to give it a good go. Something that I heard a lot of was, ‘I could never draw like you do. I’m not creative at all.’ I appreciate the compliment, but it’s a bit of an odd thing to say when you think about it, considering that it was coming from people that hadn’t even tried to draw. If you don’t try to draw, well of course you’re never going to be good at it.

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Overcoming my Anxiety to Play Pokémon Go

I was reluctant to start Pokémon Go. I work from home and live in a quiet area and so I didn’t think I’d get enough opportunities to be able to keep up with my friends (on the plus side the few gyms we have are quieter and easier to hold onto.) There have also been many negative stories around the use of Pokémon Go, which has raised the concerns of those around me. I am a little wary of having my phone out in busy places as I’ve been frequently reminded that it could make me a target. My curiosity was too strong not to at least start Pokémon Go and I do love how new social games create that sense of excitement and connection. I didn’t want to miss out on the initial buzz.

We’ve been arranging walks out together with Pokémon Go. It’s certainly more fun with friends, but to begin with I was so eager to get started I went for a short walk by myself. This is a difficult thing for me to do due to my anxiety. I feel safe to go out with others, but I often struggle to leave the house when I’m by myself. I’ve been protected too much while growing up and given the idea that I’m not safe on my own. Unfortunately there are times when we really need to go out and we can’t always expect somebody else to be available to come with us. I also believe that you need to live life and can’t keep avoiding things for fear of what could go wrong; Make sure you take precautions but don’t let it put you off from doing things you’d otherwise enjoy. My doctor recommended to me to perform simple tasks like walking to the shops each week to help me to overcome my discomfort, but I found it really difficult to keep up with. There just wasn’t enough of an incentive to go out and I felt awkward leaving the house for the sake of it.

I have this gaming mindset, where as soon as an incentive is applied – such as experience – It’ll itch away at me until I can fulfil my goals. Pokémon Go has had the same affect on me, and with much less effort than usual I stepped over the boundaries of my door step all by myself. I feared that I would look daft catching Pokémon in public, but so many others are playing it too that I don’t need to feel self-concious about it. I enjoy it for the same reason that I also enjoy digital photography; I feel safer when I have a camera in my hands as if it forms a protective barrier between me and the rest of the world. As soon as I see an opportunity for a photo I’ll do anything I can to get it no matter how silly I look to everyone else (I’ll kneel on the floor or climb on things If I have to. I even got close to a spider the other day despite being afraid of them.) My desire to take more photos as well as my new interest in catching Pokémon gives me a strong enough reason to want to push through the anxiety and get out there.

One of the other things I love about Pokémon Go is how it connects everybody together and in person. We went to the park last weekend and bumped into several people that were also catching Pokémon. We had strangers approach us to offer advice on upgrading them or to ask us what Pokémon could be found further along the path. We even tried to take on a gym just to realize that the person defending it was standing right next to us. Three of us were stood there, all members of different teams, making friendly conversation. Many of us find it difficult to break through that initial barrier of approaching new people, but Pokémon Go is offering enough of an incentive to do so. In a digital world where I reckon that a lot of people actually struggle with loneliness, a game is helping us to connect again.

The most obvious benefit of Pokémon Go is that it’s making us more active. Walking is good for us both physically and mentally. These are the kinds of benefits that I believe games to be fully capable of and it’s why I love them. By turning the world into a playground it makes going outside and exercising seem like a fun thing to do rather than to be feared or thought of as taxing. Of course, games like Pokémon Go shouldn’t be thought of as the sole answer to our physical/mental health and it’s not yet clear how real the benefits are, but the potential positives are worth exploring. Even before the release of Go I’d heard many stories of how the cute and colourful characters of Pokémon have been a comfort to people going through tough times (see ‘What Makes Pokémon Special?‘)

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Getting Out More With Pokémon Go

The idea behind Pokémon Go intrigued me, although I never expected it to take off as well as it has. I didn’t initially plan to invest so much time into it, but with everyone else playing it would be a shame to miss out while it’s popular. The aim of Pokémon Go is to walk around collecting Pokémon in the real world. There are also gyms that teams of players can take over. This is an idea that my partner and I have wanted for a long time; Being able to run our own gyms. The game currently only contains Pokémon from the first generation.

Upon starting the game I was able to select from three starters; Charmander, Bulbasaur and Squirtle. There is also a fourth hidden one (Pikachu) that you can acquire by walking a short distance and getting the starters to reset position about four times. I decided to go for Pikachu, although due to how the system works the initial Pokémon you catch are too weak to be worth using. As your trainer level increases so does the potential to catch more powerful Pokémon (measured in CP – combat points.) Pokémon can be made stronger by evolving them or powering up their CP using stardust and candy. Candy can be acquired by transferring Pokémon to the professor, and specific ones are needed to upgrade each type. There are few tutorials on how to play, but the system is simplistic and intuitive. I’m not too keen on this method of training Pokémon, although I can understand why it has been done in this way. In the other games the focus was on taking low level Pokémon from the start and making them stronger while developing a friendship with them. In Pokémon Go you’ll be transferring most of the weaker Pokémon to enable you to work on the better ones. This requires you to continue catching the same ones over and over in order to get enough candy to power them up, therefore adding longevity to the game. Even though you can pick a team and start gym battles at level 5 (Valor for me) I didn’t feel like I could start training right away. I was looking forward to trying out the gyms, but I wasn’t sure when the best time to start training was as I didn’t want to waste resources on early Pokémon. Luckily the first few levels are quick to take.

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The Arcs of Sword Art Online

I just finished watching the second season of Sword Art Online. This is an anime about virtual reality and MMORPG worlds. There are a few series out there that explore this theme, but Sword Art stood out to me by how it explores a wide range of issues in relation the emerging virtual reality. It also provides enough explanation for it to be believable (I actually think something like this could be possible one day.) The characters are likeable too. Each season is divided into story arcs. I found it jarring when I first switched arcs as they changed many of the rules I had become accustomed to. The problem with setting stories in a virtual world is that they lack risk which can remove some of your engagement. Sword Art reveals a number of ways in which being in such a world could be dangerous to the player however. It covers some benefits of virtual reality as well, providing a balanced feel on the subject. The soundtrack is also excellent. It’ll be brief, but there will still be some minor spoilers ahead. I recommend giving this anime a try if you like MMORPGs (I watched the first season on Netflix.)

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