Tag Archives: Video Games

Kerbal Space Program: Planets Ranked on Difficulty

I’m still on vacation, still bored, still playing a ridiculous amount of Kerbal Space Program, one of my favorite games of all time. My sorta goal is to land, and return, from each body in the Kerbol system. Easier said than done. I have two more planets left by the way: Tylo and Eve. If you’ve played the game before you know the bullshit I’m going to have to deal with.

With all that being said, I thought it’d be a fun and time-consuming project to rank all the planets and moon in this wonderful game in terms of difficulty. Obviously this is all my own personal opinions but since the game is ‘physics based’ my main points should be valid to anyone who’s played the game.

15. Kerbin

All images stolen from the KSP Wiki!

Kerbin is the Earth of Kerbal Space Program. Right away there is no “going to” Kerbin because you’re already there. And getting back down to the ground is easy enough. You go up, then you come back down. Kerbin has a thick atmosphere so plop a heat shield on your ship and a few parachutes and you’ll be fine.

Getting back to Kerbin with a spaceplane or other exotic craft can be a pain, but let’s not even consider that now. If you’re flying SSTOs around the solar system you’re probably well aware of the challenges of landing back on your home world.

14. The Mun

The first place away from Kerbin most players visit. It’s the perfect place to begin your journey exploring the game. It’s close, easy to get to, has a relatively large sphere of influence, and has low gravity. Sure there’s no atmosphere but that makes it easier in a way; you have to land with rocket engines and can’t rely on parachutes/wings/aerobraking to land.

Leaving the moon is literally the opposite of landing. No atmosphere to worry about means you can zip straight into orbit. No biggie.

13. Minmus

Minmus is actually easier to land on than the Mun, but I’m putting it afterwards just because of where it is. It’s a moon of Kerbin, just like the Mun, but it’s pretty far away. It’s also tiny and has a miniscule sphere of influence; getting an encounter is a pain. It’s also in an inclined orbit so newer players might have trouble figuring out how to deal with that.

But Minmus has laughably low surface gravity. It’s one of the few bodies in the game you can EVA jetpack down to the surface on. Yes, really. Park a ship in orbit, get a kerbal out, and fly him/her down. Sure you might get low on fuel or have a rough time getting back to your ship, but this shows how much of a joke landing here is. If you can manually fly down with a jetpack landing a proper lander is obviously going to be easy.

12. Gilly

The joke moon of them all. Gilly.

Gilly is a moon of Eve (and well get to Eve much much later…) and is one of the first places you might go after leaving the Kerbin system. Eve is close and takes little fuel to get to, has a massive gravity well, and takes the shortest amount of in-game time to get to. While Eve itself is a literal hell in KSP, it’s little shitty moon is nothing like its parent planet.

Gilly is sort of hard to get too because it’s little more than a glorified captured asteroid. It’s in a goofy inclined and eccentric orbit around Eve and is so small it’s hard to get an encounter with. But once your there you’re Gucci.

Gilly has no gravity. What applies to Minmus applies here ten-fold. Landing isn’t even a thing other than gently colliding with the large rock. Flying down via an EVA jetpack from an orbiting ship is even easier. Hell, if you accidentally hit the jump button on the surface you’re in for a ten minute suborbital flight kilometers above the ground, rocket or EVA pack not even needed.

11. Duna

Now we’re getting to the fun stuff in KSP. Duna is KSP’s Mars analogue and if you know anything about Mars it’ll probably apply to Duna. Duna, along with Eve, is one of the first places you venture after leaving the Kerbin system. Unlike Eve, you can actually land on Duna relatively easily.

Duna is easy to get to and doesn’t cost a ton of precious fuel. Duna is small. Duna has low gravity. But Duna has one thing that the other planets don’t have thus far; it has an atmosphere.

Like NASA has already realized with Mars, the atmosphere of Duna is thin enough to not be very useful for landing but thick enough that it can’t be ignored either. It either helps or hurts you depending on how you’re trying to land. This give the intrepid Kerbal player options, but options can make your life harder in a way. 

You can aerocapture around Duna saving tons of fuel but you could blow your ship up if you’re too aggressive. Landing is also tricky because the atmosphere will cause you to heat up a bit while also being too thin to make parachutes effective. Parachutes will slow you down a bit, but you can’t rely on them for a safe landing.

And a shout out to spaceplanes here as well. You might be tempted to use an airplane to land but since the atmosphere’s so thin you’ll probably land at a ridiculously high speed and have a high chance of crashing violently into a hill or something. 

The return trip isn’t too bad though. Since the atmosphere is so thin it isn’t much of an issue on ascent. Orbit is easy to achieve with even a small craft. There’s no real heating, no real air drag, and no major loss of engine efficiency.

10. Ike

What is there to say about Ike? Nothing really. Ike is Duna’s only moon and its basically a copy of the Mun. It’s a bit smaller and has all the features you’d expect from this. Lower surface gravity, lower orbital velocity, etc.

Ike is a joke to land on and I only put it here because it’s so far away. You have to fly across the solar system to get there. But once you’re there, landing/departing is easy. There’s been times I’ve landed on Duna, taken off, and had enough fuel (and boredom) to go land on Ike just for the hell of it.

9. Dres 

I didn’t have much to say about Ike and I have almost less to say about Dres. (Even one of the loading screen ‘tips’ mentions totally forgetting about Dres.) But it is it’s own “planet” so whatever.

Dres is modeled after the IRL asteroid/dwarf planet Ceres/Vesta. It hangs out between Duna and Jool (KSP’s Mars and Jupiter) so takes a bit more fuel to get to than Eve and Duna. It’s orbit, that of a typical asteroid, is goofy. It’s inclined much more than any of the other planets and is small making an encounter with Dres a nightmare. Dres also has no atmosphere so getting captured into orbit is a fucking pain. There’s no way around hauling a ton of fuel with you just to obtain an orbit before you even attempt landing.

Actually landing/departing is similar to any other mid-sized rocky atmosphereless body (like the Mun) in KSP. Use rocket engines and just land.

I hate Dres just because it’s a pain to get to and is pretty damn boring. Sure, it has the largest canyon in the game, but whatever. It’s the whole “fly across the solar system to land on the moon” thing again. There’s simply better places to travel to.

8. Eeloo

Eeloo is like Dres, but farther away. Same bullshit inclination, same bullshit eccentricity, but more enjoyable to look at and land on than Dres. When you land on Eeloo you get to say you’ve been to the farthest planet from the sun (modeled after Pluto and other Kuiper Belt dwarf planets). It takes a lot of fuel to get to, and quite a bit to return from, but landing is straight forward and you can pull it off just fine if you budget enough fuel.

The Jool System…

Jool, the largest planet in the Kerbol system, is like its own little solar system. There’s five moon, each varied, for you to land on and explore, and luckily getting to the Joolian system in the first place is such a unique and challenging endeavor that I’ll rank all five moons together. Some are easy to land on, some are hard, but all are prefixed by pulling off a Jool orbit which is its own moderate challenge.

7/6. Pol/Bop

I’m ranking these in the same category because they’re similar enough. They’re both small moons/asteroids that are a joke to land on like Gilly. Gilly has much lower gravity than these two but they’re each small enough to be basically similar.

Pol is inclined roughly with the rest of the Joolian moons making an encounter a bit easier than Bop with its wonky inclination. But at this point in the game, making it to Jool and all, you’ve probably worked out how to deal with inclined orbits; inclination is no big deal. They both have tiny spheres of gravitational influence making an encounter a bit challenging but as before, you’re exploring the moons of Jool so you’re probably fine by this point.

5. Vall

Vall is a mid-sized moon with no atmosphere. The lessons you’ve learned with Mun landings apply here, only magnified a little. No atmosphere, the gravity is stronger, the delta-v requirements are a bit more, but it’s not a huge challenge. 

Vall is also located between the other two large Joolian moons of Laythe and Tylo making an encounter a slight pain in the ass. It’s difficult to avoid the other two zipping around as you attempt to plot a course to Vall without being yeeted all over the place and pissing away fuel fixing your orbit.

4. Laythe

Laythe is the paradise moon of Jool System, and a second home to Kerbalkind. The moon is warm, has water, has a breathable atmosphere, and has the wonderful view of Jool in the sky. It’s a friendly place, a welcomed sight amongst all the other dead and hostile moons/planets in Kerbal Space Program.

Landing on Lathe is easy enough. The atmosphere means you can aerocapture. The atmosphere means you can fly airplanes around and regular jet engines work; no need to mess around with rockets and their inefficiencies.

As with Duna, this is a tradeoff. There’s more to consider when landing and when taking off. Plus, departing Laythe means you have a long way to travel back home; you might need to pack a ton of fuel or rendezvous with a ship in orbit.

Lathe is a decent challenge but one that is totally worth it. Seeing oceans and blue skies that far away from the sun — and from your home of Kerbin — is a wonderful thing indeed. You can almost see the Kerbals’ excitement as they remove their helmets after a long four year journey through space.

3. Tylo

Tylo is one of the worst places to land and return from. It’s in the outer solar system, far away from home, and you need to bring a ton of fuel to even land, let alone get your ass back home.

Tylo is about the same size/mass as Kerbin but there is no atmosphere. All your orbital velocity needs to be pissed away using rocket engines, and the same is true departing the moon. There is no atmospheric work-around to landing, no cheating with parachutes or aerobraking, it’s all “bring a big rocket with a lot of fuel and thrust and brute force it.”

I can’t even comment anymore on Tylo because I haven’t landed there yet. I’ve tried, but no success as of this writing.

2. Moho

One of the many things people don’t understand about spaceflight is the difficulty of going to the sun. Like it’s easier to send a probe out of the solar system than it is to get close to the sun. This is why I laugh anytime someone suggests flying out trash or nuclear waste into the sun. We can’t, we physically can’t. We can yeet the trash to the nearest star system, but we can’t reach our own star.

The same is true in Kerbal Space Program where one of the hardest planets to land on is the one closest to the sun: Moho. Like Mercury, the planet it’s based on, it’s deep in the sun’s gravity well. Any close encounter to the planet means you’ll be moving at ridiculously fast speeds and this speed has to be burned off to enter orbit around the planet. This is the main issue in getting to Moho, not even acknowledging the inclined/eccentric orbit, which are also pain-in-the-asses to deal with. (Inclination burns are strongly tied to orbital velocity/how close you are to the parent body. The closer you are, the more expensive the burns. Moho, being so damn close to the sun, forces any inclination changes to cost literal tons of fuel. Sometimes a rocket that has enough fuel, ideally, to land on Moho can’t after a suboptimal inclination during transfer and after the inevitable correction burn.)

Landing on Moho isn’t really hard, it’s like landing on a bigger Mun, but the initial orbital injection burn requires like 2-3 km/s delta-v And since you’re moving so fast you have to pull this burn off in about twenty minutes at most — no ion engines for you buddy! This burn is also required to leave Moho and get back to Kerbin. We’re talking like 4-6 km/s of delta-v just to get there and back, not even counting the ~2 km/s to land and takeoff.

1. Eve…

Fuck this place…

Eve is basically the final boss of Kerbal Space Program. Getting to Eve is easy, landing on Eve is a bit harder, but returning back home from Eve? Nearly impossible.

Eve is the Venus analog of our real solar system in Kerbal Space Program. It’s the second planet from the sun, roughly the same size as Earth (Kerbin in this case), and has a stupidly thick and dangerous atmosphere. What’s fun is Eve’s atmosphere is actually a bit tamer than Venus’; it’s less dense and not nearly as hot. Despite this, the Venus of Kerbal Space Program lives up to inspiration.

Eve, unlike Venus, is denser than Kerbin so has both a higher surface gravity and orbital velocity. While its thick atmosphere makes landing a bit easier (because you can rely on parachutes) the high entry speed coupled with the thick atmosphere means entries are hot and dangerous. Sure the parachutes work fine once you’re low and slow enough, but getting low and slow means ripping through the atmosphere at three to four kilometers per second and hoping your ship doesn’t blow up. This is easy and straightforward for simple one-way landers and bases, but we’re trying to get back to Kerbin as well…

Like Tylo, you need to bring a Big Fucking Rocket™ with you to Eve. On ascent you need over 4 km/s of delta-v just to make orbit because of the atmosphere, the gravity, and the high speed required for orbit. But unlike Tylo your Big Fucking Rocket™ also has to deal with the atmosphere on reentry and be able to land, meaning it needs heat shields galore and also has to be stable enough to not flip around and blow up on entry. Literally land a full-sized rocket through a fiery atmosphere on a planet with high gravity, no big deal, right?

A huge chunk of the planet is covered in an ocean as well. So good luck landing your rocket precisely on land after the totally reckless entry. You can land on the ocean but you’d have to design your rocket to do that initially. It’s also the same problem; what if you land your water-landable rocket on land? You also can land on a mountain to lessen the fuel required to reach orbit, but once again you’re landing on a mountain, precisely, after a fiery and reckless entry.

As for one final “fuck you” from Eve: the atmosphere doesn’t have any oxygen. Given the thick air on Eve, you’d think a fancy spaceplane would be the perfect descent/ascent vehicle but no, because jet engines don’t work. Sure you can take a spaceplane to Eve, but it has to be massive because you’re using rocket propulsion the entire way back to orbit. There is no easy way to cheese an Eve landing/return making it by far the worst planet in the game.

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May Vidya

“Stay busy at all costs! Don’t become bored!” This is one of my ‘rules’ I’ve been following when I decided to stop drinking. I’ll toss a list together whenever I get the motivation to do so, but this one I found is key to not drinking. Boredom leads to misery which leads to drinking. Obviously it’d be best to do something useful and productive to stay busy, but sometimes you need to do whatever you can to get by. When motivation is near zero, when your mood is trash, when you don’t want to actually do anything productive, what can you do? Video games!

So here’s a little bit about the three games I’ve been playing as I get back into sober swing of things.

Kerbal Space Program

Kerbal Space Program deserves it’s own post; it’s one of my all-time favorite games ever. As a kid I loved the Flight Simulator series, have always been passionate about spaceflight, and enjoyed building Legos. This game combines all three into a fun and accurate game about spaceflight. You build your own rockets/spaceplanes and explore the solar system; the only limit to what you can do is your own stubbornness and creativity. Kerbal Space Program also has a fairly accurate physics system; you really learn orbital mechanics in a hands-on way. Seriously, you’ll understand why we can only launch to Mars every two years, understand what the hell delta-v is, and learn the massive difference between orbital and sub-orbital flight, among a ton of other things.

Kerbal also has a way of keeping you playing even if you’re done with the game. It’s really easy to screw something up like running out of fuel or becoming stranded on another planet/moon which naturally leads to the inevitable rescue missions! No Kerbal left behind! There is no real need to rescue stranded Kerbals — they live forever — but something about fixing your screw-ups is immensely satisfying. So even if you’re done exploring the solar system there are usually a handful of Kerbals that you can rescue. Sometimes your rescue missions also get stranded meaning you need to rescue the rescue crew as well. Kerbal Space Program is rescue missions all the way down!

In my current game I have a crew of Kerbals stranded in a very high orbit around the sun. In terms of our real solar system, these Kerbals orbit between Mars and fucking Pluto — they’re way the fuck out there — and I just now got a rescue ship to them. They’ve only been in space for 70 years so I think they’re happy to see the rescue ship! Sadly the rescue ship doesn’t have enough fuel to make it back home, so I’ll have to piss away another 20 in-game years doing gravity assists until I can actually get them back to Kerbin, the home planet. After 100+ years in spae I’m sure my Kerbals will love to finally walk on the surface of the planet they call home. Those poor guys…

A bit about PS Now…

We somehow ended up with a PS Now subscription. It happened the way all things at our house happen; one of the kids wanted to play one of the PS Now games and only played it for a few days sticking me with a recurring $10 per month subscription charge. I figured since we had it maybe I should see what games are on there. I can always cancel if they don’t have anything.

PS Now, in case you’re not aware, is PlayStation’s game streaming service. You don’t download the games onto your PS4/5, you play them over the internet. This sounds like a great idea — you can play a fuckton of older games that you might’ve missed without purchasing them or storing them on a limited space hard drive — but has some glaring downsides. You might already be aware that latency comes into play here, and you’d be correct. By streaming the game, all information, button presses, audio, video, has to be sent over the internet. Can this even be done fast enough to yield a playable game?

No. At least not with our totally ass internet. I’m blaming Comcast again. Let’s say I want to open the menu on a game. I hit ‘O’. The signal goes to the PS4 via Bluetooth, via the PS4 to our Wi-Fi router, via the router to the modem and onto our ISP, then it gets sent to the PlayStation servers where the ‘O’ button press is actually received and processed. Shit happens there and the “opened menu” command gets passed right back along via the same path back to my TV. Sure the internet is fast, but even a few hundred millisecond delay is painful. PS Now works great if you can deal with the slight delay to everything. I could not imagine playing a Dark Souls-esque game via streaming though.

Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown

Ace Combat 7 is a one of these PS Now games I’ve been playing. For some reason I’ve been wanting to play one of these shitty flying/shoot shit games for awhile and it scratches my itch well even if it isn’t realistic at all.

Not that I was expecting it to be realistic. I knew what I was getting myself into: a dramatic and chaotic shoot-airplanes-down game with zero realism to it. Sure the planes are real — you start with an F-16 — but beyond this the game is a joke. You have 70 missiles for some reason. Your radar only locks onto enemies within a few thousand feet (or meters, does it matter?) of them. Dogfights only happen at 5’000 feet. Hell, there isn’t even a button to retract your landing gear, it goes up automatically when you take off. Flaps, speed brakes, fuel management, what the hell are those things? There’s a ‘go fast’ button and a ‘slow down’ button. That’s all you need to fly a technologically complex fighter jet.

If you’re looking for an accurate combat flight simulator, don’t play Ace Combat 7. (I played Jane’s F-15 a long time ago. That game was accurate and therefore boring. You take off and fly for two hours before reaching your target. You lock onto airplanes 30 miles away and lob a missile at them. If you blow them up you don’t even notice anything beside the blip on your radar screen disappearing. Targeting a tank with a laser guided bomb is a pain in the ass. Most missions you get shot down by a surface-to-air missile because that’s what really fucking happens IRL.) If you want to pretend you’re a badass fighter jet pilot zipping around the sky with no regard for realism, go for it. It is a fun game, but please don’t sign up for the US Air Force after you play it for a few hours.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is the precursor to Skyrim and the sequel to Morrowind. Most people have played Skyrim and this was the sort-of-popular game that came before it. And Morrowind? One of my favorite games of all time. When Oblivion came out in 2006 I was super excited — finally a new Elder Scrolls game! — only to be sorely disappointed.

Oblivion is boring. Nearly everything about it is boring. I know I should consider it on its own merits but if the company that made Morrowind churned out shit-ass Oblivion how can you not be disappointed? I was also an angsty teenager so this transgression by Bethesda was especially egregious.

Morrowind has a varied and alien landscape, Oblivion is trees and mountains. Morrowind has a unique culture inspired by Eastern and Native Americans, Oblivion is Middle Ages 2.0. Morrowind had gameplay that could be used and abused, and you can’t even levitate in Oblivion! Morrowind had boring faction quests making you feel like some unknown piece of shit (which you were), in Oblivion you’re the hero of everyone you introduce yourself to. (Oblivion didn’t go as far as Fallout 4 or Skyrim though, thank God.) There are more examples but I need to stop otherwise I won’t play Oblivion anymore.

It’s actually fun though. I’m looking through some nostalgia goggles to be sure but Oblivion does have a few perks to it. Sure it’s shitty and boring, but in retrospect Oblivion pulls off questlines like no other Elder Scrolls game has. Morrowind’s faction quests were shitty and boring, and Skyrim’s a bit over the top (that whole you show up on day one and the entire group fucking loves you for some reason), but Oblivion hits that perfect middle ground. There’s good progression in the questlines of factions; you show up as a nobody and slowly turn into a somebody and it feels like you’re contributing something to the group. I also have fond memories of the daedric quests in Oblivion while not remembering any of them in Morrowind or Skyrim.

A big gripe though: PS Now fucking sucks. The slight delay makes combat in Oblivion nearly impossible. You slightly move the stick and it doesn’t register. You move the stick a bit more and your aiming cursor moves 45 degrees across the screen; try shooting a goblin with an arrow as he’s charging at you with those wonky controls and tell me how it works out. It doesn’t. Anything that requires precise aim, like bows, magic spells, and magic scrolls are nearly unusable. It seems I’ll have to have a melee build because when you’re smacking someone with a mace you don’t have to be as precise with your aiming!

As I write this I realize I haven’t played Oblivion in a week. Am I already burning out on it? Maybe. But maybe I’ll play it later today, we’ll see. If anything it feels like I should make a dedicated post on this game someday because there is a lot to bitch about and to praise. It’s a conflicting game to be sure.

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Dark Souls in Awesome: Life Lessons from Manus, Father of the Abyss

Note: How the fuck did I have sixty views yesterday? Isn’t that a new daily record? I haven’t been doing a damn thing lately on this blog. Eh, I’ll take it!

If you’d like another Dark Souls post, I talk about how good the game is here, and how shitty the game is here.

“I totally used the pendant! How the fuck I die?!” I shouted drunkenly at the TV. My death was total bullshit this time. Manus had about ⅛ of his life left and I fought him nearly perfectly only to die to some bullshit glitch or oversight in the game mechanics. He shot his black jizz-orbs and I used the magic pendant to block them but somehow a few made it through the supposedly impenetrable magic barrier to one-shot me.

So I sat the controller down and took a drink of my second or third gin and tonic, but counting was becoming difficult at the time. I was about ⅓ the way through the bottle of gin and feeling pretty damn good about life and determined. I was hell bent on beating Manus and while sore about dying for the 20th or so time didn’t let it truly get to me.

I respawned and did the minute long run back to Manus and died for the 21st or so time. And then I did it again; the long trek back to the bastard. Then I died to the shitty sorcerer guy on the way to the boss. 22. And then I ran back again and died by some stupid fucking mistake I made: I dodged his attack a fraction of a second to early and had the shit beaten out of me by his six or seven-hit combo. 23. 24. And so on to about 35. Not that I was counting anymore.

Manus, Father of the Abyss. The fucker himself. Image from here.

I talked about video games and fun before, kinda hinting at the idea that we’ve lost the idea that video games are fundamentally supposed to be enjoyable to play. So during all the bullshit dying and running back to the boss I asked myself if I was having fun. No, no I was not. It wasn’t fun or enjoyable at all. Realizing this I asked myself why I was even playing it in the first place. Wasn’t the point of relaxing after work and drinking to have fun and/or relax? Why would I deliberately force myself into having a shitty time?

The only thing keeping me going was knowledge of the fact that I’d totally stomp his ass eventually. I had beaten him two or three times years earlier and it was only a matter of time before I’d beat him again. This is what kept me tossing myself at him over and over despite little to no actual progress at GITting GUD fighting him.

And if that isn’t interesting to ponder, that despite not having fun and having a really terrible time something kept me going back. Some blind determination of a goal that I’d see through to the end no matter what. The first few times I played Dark Souls I would get really depressed — thinking ‘is this the boss that I’ll forever be stuck on?’ — would I have to quit the game and give up forever being a Dark Souls failure? I kept playing and eventually cracked the Dark Souls formula: hard work, persistence, determination, a total unwillingness to accept failure, and being emotionally detached from your failures. Dark Souls taught me to not be too hard on myself. To keep moving forward. A bland pursuit towards some shitty goal that you weren’t sure you’d even succeed at but you’d keep working at the goal anyways. Dark Souls taught me to just do whatever you want to do, suffer through the shit, and you’ll eventually get that tiny and addictive taste of victory. 

The first Dark Souls boss you beat makes you realize why the hell people play the game so obsessively; it gives you an immense sense of satisfaction when you finally win that I haven’t gotten from any other game. You used to suck, you used to get stomped by the boss instantly and you bested him through dedication and persistence. And that instance of victory when you toss the controller on the couch with shaking and sweaty hands and start jumping around the room cussing at the TV is a feeling you’ll never forget. It’s a pure adrenaline rush during the fight that fuels the glory of the eventual victory. It’s the taste of accomplishing a goal through weathering massive hardship.

But then you inevitably feel good, cocky, like you’ve finally ‘gotten it’ and won’t have any other problems for the rest of the game. Wrong. Soon you’ll run into another wall and your past victory seems like a joke. An accident. A fluke. Luck. That one was easy but now it’s not easy anymore. You try to tell yourself to remain positive and be persistent and learn (just like before, desperately trying to keep your positive mindset) but eventually that starts to wear thin. The next challenge is harder than the last and your mood deteriorates and you crave, no need, the next victory to keep you going. And if you keep at it you’ll eventually get there, but hell if it isn’t difficult to continually fail over and over again with little to no progress to show for it.

I was walking to Manus and got hit by the shitty sorcerer guy again and had to heal. Instead of 20 estus flasks (the healing item in the game) I only had 19, a seemingly minor issue that could end the successful run; you never know how the boss fight will go down and single estus might mean the difference between dying and surviving. But my drunken mind knew that even if I did fail and it wasn’t the successful run that I might learn something during the fight anyways. I might finally learn to dodge to the left instead of the right. Or I’d finally learn the perfect distance to keep him from spamming dangerous mid-ranged attacks. Even if the run was a likely going to end in failure, maybe I’d learn something along the way. Gain the tiny puzzle piece that would eventually lead to completing the puzzle that is beating Manus, Father of the Abyss.

And fuck learning is hard. True learning is hard. We’re all wired to do things a certain way and in Dark Souls it’s difficult to stop yourself from reflexively blocking certain bosses when you need to dodge. The more ingrained your habits are the harder they are to break, the more lessons you need beaten into you to fundamentally change yourself. Change and progress is slow but if you keep tossing yourself at the boss, even ten, twenty, or 100 times you’ll eventually beat it. You fail over and over, tweaking your technique slightly each time until you stumble blindly on the magical formula that somehow works. And sometimes it’s counterintuitive to what you initially though would work. Take Great Grey Wolf Sif for example: at first you want to stay as far away from him as possible — he’s a giant fucking wolf so it makes sense — but you eventually discover this technique is suicide. Sif is ultra aggressive at mid- to long-range and will beat you to a pulp. Counterintuitively, Sif is almost harmless if you stand right underneath him. You never would’ve realized this without failing countless times and trying new techniques. Eventually you realize you were doing it all wrong, but without doing it wrong you never would’ve discovered what to do right.

BEING UNDER HIM IS THE SAFEST PLACE TO BE? YOU SURE BRO?”

So lying in bed drunk trying to think of a thought provoking blog post I found myself thinking about Dark Souls and one of the final bosses I hadn’t beaten yet, Manus, Father of the Abyss. What a dickhead. What a goddamn roadblock. I was almost done with the game but he was in my way. I couldn’t end the game without beating him because that would be giving up and bitching out. Manus was my way forward and I couldn’t stop thinking about how I quit that night in failure. I was a loser. I didn’t have enough points in GIT and GUD. So now what? Nothing. I’d fight him later. I’d let my brain make a few connections and keep tossing myself at him in a few days. Manus was as good as dead, but dead in the future where the time to conquer him simply hadn’t come yet. I still had to learn. I still had to grow. I still had to deal with my personal flaws in the game. But progress is progress and I tried to not think about, to let thoughts not useless thoughts and self-hatred wither away. Then in a drunken haze it clicked why Dark Souls is such a good fucking game. It’s a perfect analogy of chasing your goals, growing as a person, and conquering the real enemy during your quest of life: yourself.

Check out my Instagram where I post pointless artistic pics every whenever I get around to it.

Or my other blog where I sometimes post stories.

Or Wattpad where I have a Morrowind fanfic ongoing.

Or my Facebook page where I don’t do much of anything at all.

Dark Souls is Awesome

For some reason my Apex Legends post is one of my highest and most consistently viewed posts. A few other of my video game posts (Mario Jump Rope, Stardew Valley, and three Zelda posts) also rank really well: apparently people really like reading about video games and I should probably try to write more about them. One problem though: this blog is about things that suck and I try not to play games that suck. My time is precious, there are thousands of games, games take a long time to play, so why would I fuck around with playing awful games?

My five-year-old daughter somehow found my Dark Souls game a few days ago and wanted to play it. I was amused. This kid was going to totally get her ass slapped in the game. I wasn’t wrong. She didn’t know how to lock onto enemies, use the shield, or even swing the sword. She walked away from the Undead Burg bonfire and instantly died. After a few minutes she finally killed a few enemies (without assistance from locking on) and would then get murdered. Progress at least, right?

After she gave up (maybe 15 minutes after starting) I began playing my own game file that I gave up on about a year ago. I had a pyromancer build and was stuck in the Catacombs of all places. The Catacombs is one of the “easier” areas of the game and popular theory assumes it’s meant to be completed earlier than later. I tried to do this instead of going there overpowered mid- to late-game like I usually do. But holy hell was that place a nightmare of level design. I was constantly getting lost and dying by falling, especially dying to those rolly skelly motherfuckers at the bottom on the way to the boss Pinwheel. I died about ten times maybe.

After that I branched out trying to figure out where the hell I had left off. The Butterfly was dead, the Gargoyles were dead, and the second bell hadn’t been rung yet. Down to Blighttown I went, via the Master Key of course. For the first time I tanked Quelaag which was very satisfying. I recalled how much trouble she gave me on my first playthrough and contrasted this with how easy she had become.

Storytelling aside here: Dark Souls is a great game. It’s probably one of my top five favorite games, maybe even in the top three. While it isn’t a flawless game, it’s about as close to flawless as you can get. The difficulty is fulfilling, the plot isn’t forced into your face, the gameplay is varied, and the worldbuilding, level design, sound design, and atmosphere are amazing. Let’s go through each one of these and give the game a proper dick sucking like it deserves.

Difficulty

Dark Souls is notably hard. I think this is misleading though. It’s challenging in an acceptable way whereas most games around during its release seemed to be too damn easy. It’s well-known that to survive Skyrim you only need to abuse healing potions. It’s just not a hard game, not that Skyrim and Dark Souls have much in common game-wise.

Not that Dark Souls doesn’t have plenty of unfair, bullshit difficulty moments and the rolly fuckers in the Catacombs are the perfect example of this. Or the Anor Londo archers: anyone who has played the game and made it that far know exactly what I’m talking about. They’re legendary with their immense total-bullshit factor. And let’s not forget the entire Capra Demon boss fight, or Smough and Ornstein’s Pornhub-esque tag-teaming of your innocent and unprepared character with their large clubs and spears. Or the stupid fucking bridge Drake. The game is brutal in many cruel ways.

I think what makes this bullshit acceptable is that it was purposefully done on behalf of the game developers. They added plenty of these bullshit-hard moments just because they could. While the game is mostly fair, these moments are what break you. They’re what make you persevere and beat the game. Those fucking Anor Londo archers are the definition of bullshit artificial difficulty, but they never feel cheaply done. They’re not nerfed weapons or terrible game mechanics nor are they large health pools just for the sake of having large health pools. The devs want to piss you off and this is a flaw on you not the game devs. Once you figure out how to relax, calm down, and deal with the bullshit in front of you, you can easily conquer any challenge the game tosses at you. And you feel great for doing so. Many times I’ve conquered something to realize my hands were literally shaking from adrenaline. I don’t recall any other games that can do this.

Varied Gameplay

Dark Souls offers a handful of starting classes such as a sorcerer, pyromancer, healers, and your normal typical warrior classes. This immediately gives you options and adds replay value to the game. A common view is that a sorcerer/magic build playthrough is the easiest mostly because you can stand as far away from the action as possible and hurl overpowered Crystal Soul Spears at the helpless enemies. A warrior build is probably the most difficult, forcing you to close the distance and do physical damage to your enemies.

But even besides those basic options you can play the game anyway you want. Some people eschew shields in favor of two-handing weapons and dodge-rolling attacks. Some people do “Soul Level 1” playthroughs, never leveling their character up during the course of the game. Even if you start off as a certain class, you can also play however you want depending on how you spend your points as you level up. A sorcerer at the start can be a tank mid-game if you dump points into certain attributes.

Hell, even the weapons have a wide variety to them. You can use a basic one-handed sword, or use some massive two-handed weapon like the Dragon’s Tooth or the Zweihander. Or you can use a spear/halberd/axe/whatever-the-fuck-else you want to use. Mix and match as you please. Wear whatever armor you want, use whatever spells/magic you want, and use whatever weapon you want. Play the game as you see fit. This creativity makes subsequent playthroughs of Dark Souls nearly always interesting and different.

The Plot

Differing with every other game ever made (mostly) Dark Souls has a plot that isn’t tossed into your face forcefully. In fact, Dark Souls doesn’t seem to give a fuck if you care about the plot at all, and this almost plays into the games favor. Ignoring the plot makes you a tool who simply walks around and kills shit blindly, so when you finish the game as an unknowing death machine it’s fitting in a way. Not to give away the ending, but completing it as a tool who doesn’t think is fitting with what you accomplish.

And if you care to learn about the plot you better enjoy puzzles because the plot is a puzzle. The only clues you get are item descriptions and sparse dialogue. The cutscenes in-game (besides the boss intro cutscenes) probably total three or four minutes at most. The dialogue in-game is probably at most two-pages long if you decided to type it all out. The item descriptions are just as vague and seemingly meaningless as everything else, but someone with a creative mind and attention to details can piece some things together which is massively fulfilling. Solaire’s fascination with the sun. The inscription on the Ring of the Sun’s Firstborn. The fact that the statue next to Lord Gwyn in Anor Londo is strangely missing points to a strange in-game fact and popular theory: Solaire is probably Lord Gwyn’s lost son. Why this is, who the hell knows, but even that jumping off point gives you many leads to ponder.

This is how nearly everything is in the game — vague, hidden, and uncertain — but how else would roaming around a dying decaying world be? It feels like you’re part of some massive story playing some important role and even you don’t know what that role is.

The Atmosphere

The subtle plot plays directly into the atmosphere of the game. The world is large, complex, and has a fascinating history but there are no clear signs of this history. No one is around to tell you what it all means. Only strange enemies in the woods, deformed people turned into spiders and other monstrosities, and crumbling (and strangely large) buildings scattered throughout the world. What does all of this mean, if anything?

You feel utterly alone in the world with few friends to talk to. The music is mostly non-existent except for a few key areas. Firelink Shrine and the Anor Londo Throne Room come to mind and they contrast well with the silence in the rest of the game. The bosses command their own impressive scores that raise your anxiety to hand-shaking and adrenaline-inducing levels. Playing for hours with no music and strolling through a fog gate to find a terrifying music track backing the boss charging at you is intense. Not all areas are quiet though: New Londo has a track that is so silent and subtle that you don’t notice it being there; if anything it makes you unconsciously even more terrified of the ghosts that appear out of nowhere and slit your throat or slice your character to pieces.

The stiffness of your character, the slowness with which they move, and the clunking of their armor all make you feel like an incapable and worthless person in some massive and harsh world. You’re not some superhero meant to save the world; you’re just another Undead trying to do whatever it is that you’re supposed to do. The world is cruel and doesn’t give a fuck about you. You feel alone, isolated, and nearly always in danger. The game is terrifying, depressing, oppressive and isolating, but sometimes it almost takes on a peaceful quality to it. A sort of resignation and acceptance with how dismal the in-game world truly is.

The Level Design

The level design of Dark Souls is where I think the game really shines. While the game does become rather linear later on, the first half of the game is immensely complex and interconnected.

I think this was mostly driven by the lack of teleporting/warping/fast travel until you get far enough into the game. This helps the game feel massive by requiring you to walk anywhere you need to go. Shortcuts are numerous and countless times I’d explore a certain direction only to discover it linking to a part of the world I never expected it to. The Undead Parish and Firelink shortcut is the best example I can think of. You start in Firelink, and walk all the way to the Undead Burg, fight the imposing Taurus Demon, and make your way to the Undead Parish in a long and arduous journey, especially for new players. In the Parish you find an elevator that appears to lead to a totally new and dangerous area and find yourself pleasantly surprised to discover you’re back at the Firelink Shrine. “Oh, I’m here?!” I clearly remember thinking the first time I discovered this. New London and Darkroot Basin via Valley of the Drakes. Blighttown to Firelink shrine. Darkroot Basin and the Undead Burg: everything is always closer than what you expect.

Take a look at this picture. I think it was created from actual Dark Soul’s game files on PC. The first time I saw it, it blew my mind away. I stole it from here, and while this person didn’t make the map himself (or the program) he does give credit where it’s due.

It’s a map of the entire game. Everything is interconnected and wraps around itself like a maze. You start the game in the red central area, and as you can see everything branches out from there. Some of the large branches are late-game areas which suffer from poor level design, but the entire early- mid-game levels are wonderfully interconnected and complex. Take a look at this map of the depths — one of the shittier areas of the game — and you can see the level design is still delightfully complex.

It’s a fucking maze! This design really makes you feel utterly and hopelessly lost. Stolen with love from here.

Dark Souls does have its flaws, notably the clunky gameplay at times, or the shitty framerate in Blighttown (which may have been fixed in the remastered version?), or the shitty late-game areas and bosses (Bed of Chaos, anyone?!?), or the fact that it’s really hard to get into initially, but I really think these don’t make the game bad at all. There’s so many positives that any flaws Dark Souls has can easily be overlooked. It’s a fantastic game and if you haven’t played it, well, get the fuck out there and play it!

Like this post and want more Dark Souls inspired posts? Here’s one about how Manus is a pain in the ass, and this one about some of the stupid shit about Dark Souls.

Video Game Endings Suck: The In-Game Existential Crisis

I can think of three general ways to end a video game. Firstly, there are games that don’t have a plot or a story to even end: think of multiplayer first-person shooter/battle royale games like Fortnite, Apex, or Black Ops IV. You can probably toss simulation and puzzle games into this category too; Microsoft Flight Simulator doesn’t have a plot or an ending. You just fly around and when you’re done you’re done. The same is true for Tetris. The second way to end a game is to, well, end it. These games have a plot and story and obviously the developers have to wrap it up somehow. There are a few ways to do this as well. They can end the game in a “harsh” where you can no longer play the game. Think of Dark Souls or Bioshock Infinite. When the game is over, the game’s over. There’s also the “open-ended” endings in this category where despite beating the main quest you are still able to play the game. Skyrim is a great example here. You kill Alduin, save the world, yet you can still wander around and do shit afterwards. These games have a clear ending to the main quest. There is a point where you’ve clearly beaten the game.

By far the worst way to end a game is to have no ending. I’m not talking about the plotless multiplayer games from above either: I’m talking narrative and story-driven open world games that are so open ended there is no ending. The Sims, Kerbal Space Program, Minecraft, and Stardew Valley are all great examples of games with no endings.

On the surface this all sounds like a great idea: with a game that is open and neverending you can play forever, right? No. These games do have endings even if they’re not explicitly stated; their endings are much more depressing when you think about them too much. These games end in the in-game equivalent of existential depression: the eventual realization that there is nothing else to do in the game. After the challenge is over, you have everything you could ever want or need, accomplished everything you’ve wanted to do, what option do you have besides giving up?

Not that these games lack story or gameplay progression which is usually in the form of crafting progression and/or unlocking items. The whole point of Minecraft survival mode seems to be unlocking items and finding materials. A good example are nether portals. To create these you usually need to craft a diamond pickaxe and diamond is one of the rarest things to find in the game. You need to bury deep within the ground to even find diamond, so unlocking a nether portal (to unlock all of the nether-unique items) takes some work. It gives you something to progress towards. Even if there is no actual narrative story, you have something to drive you further into the game.

Stardew Valley — the main inspiration of this post because it depicts a relatively believable story, farming — uses items to drive progression. The requirement to water your crops everyday adds a huge incentive to upgrade the watering can, which costs money and ores, which in turn requires a large farm, which itself requires an upgraded watering can, which requires exploring the mines, which requires the item to smelt ore. This singular goal — upgrade the watering can — is one of the primary struggles in Stardew Valley. As I hope you can understand now, upgrading the watering can involves hours of gameplay and progression. Carrying the watering mechanic to its limit are the sprinklers; items that automatically water crops daily without you doing a damn thing. Obviously they are a massively sought after item. The best sprinkler requires iridum, a ridiculously rare crafting ingredient that is most easily found in the Skull Cavern. Stardew Valley is fantastic by giving you natural gameplay incentive to progress throughout the game. Most items you unlock make the game easier or your farm more efficient. Progressing through the game is just a struggle to make your life easier!

These games work amazingly well until you run out of incentives to progress. Minecraft is especially terrible because once you’ve built yourself three golden castles towering into the sky, then what? You literally have everything you can even need or want in the game, so what do you do? The same is true in Stardew Valley as it’s another one of the “endless games” that you can play for literal years in-game with no completion. Once you’ve developed the community center and have millions of dollars, then what? When you have a massive farm that prints money all by itself with minimal effort and input from you, then what? After you’re married and had a few kids, then what? Eventually Stardew, and all games like this, reach a point where there is no incentive to play anymore. You’re bored with your in-game life and there isn’t anything else to drive you forward. Your in-game life literally becomes pointless and eventually you simply stop playing. It’s an in-game existential crisis. You question your purpose and what the meaning of all your progress even was. Sure you had fun playing the game, but now what?

It isn’t difficult to allow this dreaded outlook to bleed into your view of life in general. Usually success IRL is a lot more difficult than success in Stardew Valley (imagine trying to have a successful farm on your own IRL), Minecraft (imagine trying to live in the woods and survive for years with absolutely nothing except what you can personally create), or in any other “neverending” game, but the slight and ever-present sense of nihilism depicted in the end of these games always seems to underscore life itself. I just don’t think we ever get to that point in life where you can ask yourself “now what?” Life is so difficult, complicated, and multifaceted that I don’t think anyone can ever feel like they’ve “beaten life” like you can in a video game. There’s always something else to challenge you. But still, some part of me imagines this happening someday especially to certain people. Those who have a nice house, so much money that they don’t know what else to spend it on, and where life appears to have been beaten. I’m imagining this is how Olympic athletes and sports stars feel: their lives are so one-dimensional and filled with a singular goal that once it’s achieved — they win the gold medal or the Superbowl or whatever — that they might feel this crushing and final question of “now what?” that I always feel at the end of certain video games. I feel really sorry for these people and I don’t know if I’m lucky or not by thinking that I’ll never reach the end of what I want to accomplish in life. I don’t think I’ll ever be asking myself “now what,” but what if that means I never reached the end of the game? Like I hadn’t properly beaten it? What if that means I’ve failed?

Not Enough Time Sucks

“What do you want to do with your life?!?”

-Seemingly Everyone

My default way of brainstorming is apparently lying awake in bed at 3 a.m. It feels like I start every blog post off this way, because it’s true. Anyways, I was lying awake in bed at 3 a.m. and was in a good mood, shockingly. I was looking forward to the following day and all of the possibilities that it offered me. I had a good selection of books that I wanted to read (Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules, Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment, Six Pillars to Self-Esteem, Dune, and every other book in my backlog), and more so than just read them, I wanted to understand them. I’m talking about really absorbing the books, taking notes on them, and reading and reflecting on what I had read. I also wanted to do this with a handful of musical albums. As with reading, I want to absorb the songs and understand them. I want to look up lyrics and ponder how the words play over and off the underlying music. There’s just so much going on to appreciate! And there are other things I want/need to do: I have a 5k coming up in a few weeks that I’m totally ill-prepared for, I need to write…and oh yeah writing! I have like three stories I’m working on along with this blog and I need to proofread stuff, and figure out a way to actually self-promote any writing I do accomplish. Work is still a thing and I also want to maybe work on being a flight instructor as a career. Who knows what I want to do?

It’s at that point I realized that my problem isn’t lacking things I enjoy doing, it’s having the time and motivation to actually do things. There’s just not enough time in the day (or in general) for me to do all the things I want to do.

Many of the tasks need patience, time, and thought to accomplish. Sure, while I could sit down and write blog posts/chapters and proofread them quickly, the same isn’t true with reading a book or listening to music. To really appreciate these things you need to take your time with them. You need to let your mind properly process them. And more importantly you can’t multitask them. “Why don’t you just listen to music while you write?” you might ask. It’s because when you write you’re probably not listening to the music like you’d want to. I’m a firm believer that the human mind can only really focus on a singular thing at once and listening to music in a distracting environment does the music a disservice. To really enjoy music, a book, and to appreciate the subtleties of any of the arts, you need to do them solo. To really dive in and appreciate what is going on.

Obviously there needs to be some form of prioritizing here and I don’t even know where to begin. Ranking things based on importance seems silly; reading is just as important to me as music and I can’t pick only one. There is also the question of what I actually feel like doing. Sometimes I’d rather read than listen to music while other times the opposite is true. Movies seem to have an even more unique mindset I need to be in to watch them. It isn’t a simple matter of prioritizing, or maybe it is and I’m just awful at having self-control. Forcing yourself to sit down and listen to music when you want to read seems almost sacrilegious in a way. And I don’t know how to decide what I actually should be doing with my time.

To be ultra depressing you can scale this struggle of what to do up from hobbies to careers. I have a handful of job-like things I could be working towards, and these take even more time and effort than reading or listening to music does. I think this is the main reason why people never seem to know what they want to do in life, it’s such a big decision to make that I understand why people simply don’t make a decision. “What you want to do in life?” seems to be such a loaded question in so many ways. It seems to be asking what you want to constantly be working towards day after day in your free time and your work time. And when you look at it that way no wonder people can’t fucking pick. There is absolutely nothing in this world that I’d be happy doing eight or ten hours each day, every day. I like my variety and choosing “what I want to do” seems to force any and all variety out of life, even if it isn’t true in practice.

I also like to blame video games for altering my outlook on what I want to do. Video games make it easy to accomplish literally anything in the game world you want. It’s a matter of dedication and time but in such a way that you can actually make progress. All of my skills in Stardew Valley are maxed out: IRL you can never max out every possible skill available. Hell, even in games like Skyrim you can still do certain things outside of your expertise. Even a wizard-mage-magical person can shoot a bow and kill things, just not very well. And even if you can’t do everything in a single play through you can always play multiple characters and accomplish everything the game world has for you to accomplish. There is no choice of “What do I want to do?” because you can do everything.

Real life forces you to actually pick the things you want to do, and hell if there aren’t too many interesting things to do. I want to write fiction and nonfiction. I want to blog. I want to fly airplanes. I want to make music. I want to paint or something. I want to put solar panels all over the house. I want to read and listen to music and go sit outside and enjoy nature. I want to stop climate change. I want to start a grilled cheese food truck. I want to live in the woods. I want to be a Buddhist monk. But there are only 24 hours in the day, 365 days in a year, and a finite amount of years left in my life. I physically can’t do nearly everything I want to do, and narrowing things down seems like an affront to the variety of things that life has to offer. It’s not so much that there is nothing I want to do, in fact there is too much to do that I’m paralyzed by the choices offered to me! I guess it’s a good problem to have but dammit if knowing that I’ll never get to experience all the things I want to do doesn’t feel awful. I hate deciding. I hate making choices. Especially when these choices involve things as important as choosing what to do with the time given to me. If only I could choose to have more time. But that’s kinda like what the Genie in Aladdin said about wishing for more wishes. You can’t do it, it’s illegal.

Depression in Stardew Valley Sucks

A few days ago I became legitimately depressed while playing Stardew Valley. It was both kinda funny and sad at how awful I felt over the game; I didn’t know whether I should laugh about it or feel depressed by being depressed by a video game, let alone Stardew Valley. This incident also shined some light on my own personality and the lack of self confidence I have in life. This post will probably be deeper than you might expect from a Stardew Valley inspired post, but here goes.

(I wrote a second post about Stardew Valley if you’re interested!)

Here’s where I give a shitty overview of the game in case people don’t know what I’m talking about: Stardew Valley is a game where you farm stuff and live in a tiny village. You can talk to, befriend, and even marry some of the residents in the town. I don’t know how important all of that is to the main story of the game, but the game does stress the aspect of community, which freshens it up from being only a farming simulator. Anyway, it’s also a cutesy, 2D top down, “kiddie game” as one of my friends described it. This almost makes the incident worse because as stated it’s a kids game: It shouldn’t punch me right in the feels, especially as directly as it did.

In-game Jeremy wandering the fuck around.

There’s a community dance (The Flower Dance) that happens in the forest around day 25. It’s an optional thing to do so whatever, no big deal. I went to the dance because I’m trying to be the friendly new guy in town who is trying his damndest to fit in and be accepted in the community. I should also say that up to this point in the game I’ve been a very diligent and socially-isolated farmer: I’m toiling away in my fields every single day either chopping wood for fertilizer, planting/harvesting/watering the crops, or running into town to buy more seeds. While some people might be fucking around socializing in town all day, I’m trying to turn my farm into the most fantastic farm ever and give the community something to be proud of. Because fuck the JoJa Corporation and Capitalism in general. I’m all about seizing the means of production, even if I haven’t told Mayor Lewis any of my intentions yet…

Pam is a beauty…

So Jeremy who is the new resident of Stardew Valley — let’s call him in-game Jeremy — shows up to the dance and starts talking to people. Some of the townsfolk he sort of knowns, and others appear to be new faces. Mayor Lewis allows in-game Jeremy to decide when the dance should actually start (since the game sort of revolves around in-game Jeremy for some terrible reason. Unbeknownst to in-game Jeremy he is, in fact, the player character. The story literally revolves around him). After talking to most of the people, in-game Jeremy realizes that he can ask people to dance with him. Oh shit! He accidentally discovered this when he asked the emo gothic guy to dance with him. Luckily he said no but it was still awkward. (“Hey bro, you want to dance with me? No homo tho, I just think those skinny jeans look really good on you. Your ass is…wow.”) In-game Jeremy then proceeds to confidently ask the females, being picky at first but then growing desperate and asking anyoneeven the trashy, alcoholic Pam but you can’t actually ask her — if they would like to dance. They usually replied with something like this:

“Oh! Oh! I’m sorry…I, er…have plans to ask someone else.”

“I’m flattered! But…no.”

“That’s flattering…but I’m gonna have to say no. Sorry.”

“I’ll be honest. I don’t want to dance with you.”

“Eww…No.”

Holy fuck game, thanks for the hefty dose of rejection. So in-game Jeremy, with no one to dance with, finally walks up to Mayor Lewis and gives him the go-ahead to start the dance. In game Jeremy wants to just get the stupid-ass dance over with so he can head back home and go to sleep. He’s sick of these people, their rejection, and their unappreciation of him, his hard work, and his farm.

After the dance in-game Jeremy goes to his house and goes to bed. It’s night and there’s nothing to do. He almost thought about watering the crops before bed, but fuck the plants too, they can wait. In the morning, in-game Jeremy stares at the crops and doesn’t actually want to do any work, but he sure as fuck isn’t going to town today to socialize with those assholes. He doesn’t want to work on the crops but there’s nothing else to do with his life so he begrudgingly gets to work. Watering. Weeding. Planting. Harvesting. Urgh. Not that anyone appreciates it. “Fuck this place,” In-game Jeremy says as he toils in the fields the day after the dance.

A few days later, still feeling shitty but not quite as shitty, in-game Jeremy realizes that it’s Emily’s birthday, and that he should give her a gift. Maybe a flower? After he picks a few flowers and heads into town he stops and thinks, “Is she even going to like this? She probably won’t even give a shit if I give her a gift or not. If anything it’ll be the wrong gift and she’ll hate me.” In-game Jeremy goes up to the “shipping bin” where you place products your farm has created, and chucks the flowers into that. Emily has no idea in-game Jeremy was even going to give her a gift and goes about her day knowing nothing of the conflict that occured in in-game Jeremy’s head or the gift that she almost received. In-game Jeremy continues to sulk and overthink things as he tends to his garden daily. “Pretty sure all those fuckers hate me,” he thinks to himself.

The next day in-game Jeremy finally drags his ass into town. He ran into Haley, a young and beautiful blonde lady who lives in town. He tries talking to her, just to say “Hi” or “How’s your day going?” The game informed in-game Jeremy that: 

HALEY IS IGNORING YOU

“Maybe you should, like, kill yourself? No one likes you or your stupid farm!”

Jesus Christ, Stardew Valley is depressing as fuck.

In-game Jeremy then stops into Pierre’s store to find some rope for a noose, but sadly Pierre doesn’t sell rope. Not that in-game Jeremy has unlocked the noose-crafting recipe anyways. In-game Jeremy, as depressed as he is, is hopelessly stuck in the world with no way to escape.

While I was trying to strike a clear difference between me — IRL Jeremy — and my avatar in-game (in-game Jeremy) I found it kinda difficult to do in practice. When you play a game that is as absorbing as Stardew you kinda become the player character and this is a good thing. (“This game really makes you feel like Spiderman!”) While in-game Jeremy felt like shit over being rejected by everyone in town, it also became difficult for IRL Jeremy to also not feel rejected, even if there was no reason to feel that way. While IRL Jeremy was laughing at the brutal and consistent nature of in-game Jeremy’s rejection something inside was also being stirred around. The vague shadow of repressed memories, fears of total social rejection, and loneliness from high school/college swam at the corners of my IRL consciousness. What if everyone I know actually hates me? What do people say about me when I’m not around? Am I really as awkward as I think I am? Does anyone actually appreciate me? It was kinda scary. Faced with the “fun, kid-friendly” story and graphics of Stardew Valley, it almost seemed surreal in a way. This game was making me feel like shit about my own life and had me questioning all my real relationships and my worth in the world.

I also felt bitter and angry towards the damn in-game townsfolk; these people aren’t even real and I was pissed at them! Logically it made sense that no one wanted to dance with in-game Jeremy because he was the new guy in town who has only been around for 25 days (or like 2.5 months if you take Stardew time in terms of a year) and who wasn’t being social at all and made zero effort to interact with anyone. The townsfolk basically saw in-game Jeremy as a recluse farmer who never talks to people but then shows up and creepily asks every person available to dance. No shit they said no! If I was a video game NPC like these people I’d also say no too! In-game Jeremy — you socially-inept idiot — you have to make actual effort in relationships for them to work. And if that isn’t hitting things a bit close for IRL Jeremy as well. I found myself questioning how much effort I put into friendships and if I expect other people to do all the work. Or do I just show up and expect people to like me when I do nothing likeable at all? Do I show enough interest in other people? Or am I self-centered asshole that metaphorically is a recluse farmer who tends his fields all day? Once again I wasn’t expecting goddamn life lessons from Stardew but here we are.

One of the highlights of the game so far. I was pissed and fishing off this bridge just because, and Abigail walked up and stood next to me. She stood there for hours watching me fish and neither of us said anything. In-game Jeremy was utterly focused on catching those damn fish and gave no outward sign of his appreciation, but he loved her for being there keeping him company.

I’m complaining here but you have to give the game credit: usually people play video games just to kill time, to have fun, or to escape the real world for a little bit. To feel some progress in a game world to counteract the utter difficulty and lack of progress in the real world. It’s a rare game that somehow acts as a mirror and puts yourself up there on display for you to analyze, especially if said game is usually viewed as a “kids game.” This allows you to lower your defenses and to be vulnerable without you being aware that it’s happening, and not realizing that you’re about to get utterly punched in the feels so aggressively that it resonates with your actual self. Stardew Valley made in-game Jeremy feel like a loser who would never properly fit in with the townsfolk even if he really wanted to, and that made IRL Jeremy also feel the same way, constantly searching for approval, community, and appreciation. The depressive mood didn’t last for long, maybe twenty minutes or so, but it was twenty minutes that I was not prepared for at all. It was an eye-opening experience that I wasn’t at all ready for. Fuck you Stardew Valley for being such a good game.

Related Post: Depression in Stardew Valley Sucks: Part Two

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Goofing Around (In Video Games) Sucks

In my last post I mentioned that I 100%ed Super Mario 64. This is a heavily nostalgic game for me and countless others and while it hasn’t aged magnificently over the years it still remains a classic. It retains its charm and is still an enjoyable game to play if you can look past the shitty grafix from the late 90s. But I realized something upon completing the game that I didn’t realize before: Mario 64 is a really short game. Surely part of this is due to me having played it before, but I don’t think this has much to do with why it feels so short. It’s been so long since I played Mario 64 to completion I had almost forgotten where most of the stars were and had to “rediscover them” even if I had a vague hint of a memory where the star was. (I still remember the Turok master cheat code though: nthgthdgdcrtdtrk. Looks like something out of a Lovecraft story.) So while the game was easier than it was when I first played it, it wasn’t just a feat in repetition; I really had to discover the game all over again.

I found myself wondering how, as a kid, I was able to pour so much time into this game as I did. I was able to knock out all 120 stars within a week as an adult, and even if I had played the game before, I assume a new player could still beat the game quickly. It’s just not a long or complicated game. How did my childhood-self find this game so massive and consuming that I could literally play it for hours after school, day-after-day for months on end? Bowser had his ass kicked and I had all 120 stars, so what was I doing endlessly playing the game?

Outside of a few other minor things (being a bored kid, no internet, etc.), I assume it was because I dicked around in the game. I should explain that a bit more. This means that outside of the actual game-dictated challenges I would find other bullshit challenges to set for myself. It was total immersion in the world where you’re just playing around and having fun with the game itself. Grabbing the stars is what you’re supposed to do but dicking around is ignoring what you’re supposed to do to do random bullshit. Somehow kid-me excelled at this while adult-me is pretty terrible at it.

Bob-omb Battlefield

The first level, the iconic Bob-omb Battlefield, had a turtle whose shell you could ride like a skateboard. It was fun as hell to grab his shell and challenge yourself to do stupid shit with it: could you surf up to the top of the mountain without hitting anything and losing his shell? Could you use the shell to race Koopa the Quick? You could also grab the Wing Cap, jump into cannons, and fly around for the hell of it. Each level offered so much to do but only if you’re creative enough to play around with the game. This was even better if you had friends to play with. You could all take turns having races to the top of the Bob-omb mountain, or see who could get Baby Penguin to his mom is the fastest time possible (or who could drop him off the cliff in the most cruel/hilarious way). Your imagination was the only limit to the fun you could have in Mario 64 as well as any other game.

Shell surfin’. I crashed a few seconds after this attempting to make it to the top of the mountain.

Something changed because now I don’t have the time or patience to fuck around in video games. I don’t know if it’s adulthood itself or aspects of adulthood like having a job and a tighter schedule that changed things, but I find myself being very “goal oriented” when I play video games. It does take all the fun out of them too. I view the game as just that: a game. Games are now just a big and sometimes complex puzzle: you figure out what you need to do to achieve a goal and you do that. Find key, go to the next room. Kill enemies, get to the end of the level. Find enough moons to fight Bowser. Etc. It’s basic problem solving now: discover problem, research the problem, conquer the problem. Complete the quest and beat the game. And then onto the next game. It’s depressing.

Flyin’.

As I was writing this post, the word playing popped into my head. Dicking around in video games, as I’ve been explaining it, sounds a lot like playing. Kids will grab toys and play with them not for a purpose but just because. I even looked up the definition of the word play and guess what it is?

Engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.”

-The Damn Dictionary

So, fuck, it’s not that adult-me is overly goal-oriented or that kid-me was better at making up random shit to do, kid me was better at playing while adult me fucking sucks at it. Making this even worse is that when adult-me is “playing” video games, I’m probably not actually playing them. I’m always chasing a set of goals or in-game challenges and am not playing for the pure enjoyment or recreation of it. Or my personal enjoyment and recreation while playing a video game is in beating the game and not playing the game. Holy fuck, I didn’t think there’d be an epiphany in this post, but there it is. Kid-me played video games and adult-me beats video games.

This entire post reflects back on the last post about 100%ing Nintendo games. In that post I argued that Nintendo is kinda badass by not giving you any real rewards for going above-and-beyond in your video gaming duties. They rely on your own self-motivation to accomplish all of the extra bullshit you need to 100% one of their games. They’re going to give you the shit to do but not reward you for it. This post is sort of the same thing: to properly play a video game you also need to go outside of what the game itself gives you for goals/accomplishments and find your own way towards fun. This is the essence of playing — doing something for your own enjoyment with zero practical reason to motivate you — and is a huge reason why I enjoyed video games and could pour hours into them as a kid. I was playing and not simply trying to chase goals. As adult gamers we might become overly “goal-oriented” and miss the whole reason for playing a game: to have fun! But to have fun you need to be creative and do something for the sake of doing it, just like 100% video games entails. So the next time I play a video game I’m going to try to sit back, relax, and actually enjoy the experience instead of checking off a list of items that the game wants me to do. Being an adult is kinda shitty in case you didn’t know that yet.

The Mario Jump Rope Challenge Sucks: The Hardest Moon in the Game

I played Super Mario 64 when it was released in like 1996 or something. Yeah, I’m kinda old. In case you didn’t know, the main plot of the game involves you collecting power stars to open up locked areas of the castle in an effort to — wait for it — save Princess Peach from Bowser. The thing is you only need 70 moons to actually beat the game while the game offers a total of 120 stars. This might be the first Mario game where there is this idea of collectable items. It’s a natural tendency for us OCD-prone people to need all 120 of those damn stars to finally 100% complete the game. The leads directly to my current problem…

Super Mario Odyssey — the newest and possibly greatest game in the Mario series — has the very same DNA as Mario 64 except things are turned up to 11 this time. Instead of needing 70 stars to beat the game you need like 120 stars moons. There’s a second ending and more levels that are unlocked when you obtain 500 stars moons while the game holds a total of an amazing 880 unique stars moons! (Really it’s like 830 unique moons as some of these are “multi-moons” that count as three.) Compare this to Mario 64 where you need about 60% of the moons to beat the game. Odyssey requires only 124 moons — or about 15% of the total moons — to beat the game. More levels are unlocked at 250 and 500 moons: 30% and 60% of the total, respectively. My point is Odyssey requires a smaller percentage of moons to actually progress the game leaving a goddamn mountain of moons to find if you want to 100% it.

And of course you want to 100% the game because you have such fond memories of meeting Yoshi on top of Peach’s Castle after getting the 120 stars in Mario 64. It was the crowning achievement of your elementary school days so, naturally, wouldn’t it be cool to 100% Mario Odyssey as well? Mario 64 ingrained us with that drive to 100% Mario games and it isn’t any different in Odyssey. There’s only one problem with that: Odyssey is hard.

I laugh when people think Mario is a kids game. Mario is a kids game but it’s also a cruel and harsh Nintendo game and sometimes Nintendo simply doesn’t fuck around. Sometimes Nintendo makes a game that’s very cute and friendly towards kids but totally fucks people up that push the game to its limit. And that’s exactly what happens when you want to 100% the game. The game asks — no requires — a precise level of platforming if you want that 100%.

There are certain stars moons in this game that are total bullshit to obtain. Some final levels are basically repeats of earlier levels where the devs take out (or insert) some really cruel mechanic. One level requires you to dodge poison plants (as you’ve done previously) but they make the walkway above the poison lake invisible (“Invisible Road: Rush!” moon). In one final level you repeat a timed level that features the motor scooter except they remove the scooter and you have to roll as fast as possible (“Vanishing Road Rush”). The margin of error on that level is only like a second or so. Another level requires you to do like 12 perfectly timed long jumps in a row (“Breakdown Road” moons) where a single mistake or slightly mistimed jump means you fail the level.

There’s also the volleyball challenge where you must hit a ball 100 times (“Hero of the Beach!”). This sounds really trivial except you get to start over at the beginning if you fuck up. Making it up to 50 isn’t hard so replaying the entire first half is torture. I think it took me 2 or 3 tries so it wasn’t too bad I guess. It was one of those challenges that is kinda a cheap sort of challenge. It just takes time smacking a ball back and forth. It’s monotonous.

But the crowning achievement of Odyssey’s bullshit-moons is the infernal jump rope challenge moon (“Jump Rope Genius”). The first moon of this challenge in New Donk City is easy enough and triggers after only 20 jumps; it’s the second moon that is impossible to get. You need 100 perfectly timed jumps to unlock this moon and it seems to be nearly impossible even if it does seem stupidly trivial at first.

A good example of the rope moving fast enough to display individual frames with Cappy looking kinda surprised.

As with the volleyball challenge, as you progress the speed of the rope increases to insane levels. I’ve personally made it up to about 60 jumps and by this time the rope is moving so fast I can’t physically hit the jump button fast enough. Mario doesn’t make it down to the ground quickly enough to start another jump! Gravity isn’t strong enough for me to make these jumps! The A button physically cant be hit fast enough by my finger to jump over the rope! You can literally see the single frames of the rope as it flashes across the screen as quickly as it does: it ceases to be a smooth motion at that rate. 30 frames-per-second doesn’t even survive the jump rope challenge. But Nintendo, a friendly game company that makes easy kid bullshit, forces this onto you if you’re crazy enough to 100% Mario Odyssey. It’s insane and I suppose I’m insaner by trying to 100% a Nintendo game in the first place. Remember taking pictures in Wind Waker? That is what purgatory would be like.

I’m pretty sure this will be the last thing I do in the game as I just can’t make any progress on it and quickly give up to find other moons. The bullshit challenges I mentioned earlier are easier (mostly because they’re real challenges) and I think I’ve beaten the invisible plant poison level already. Hell, I even think the marathon Darker Side of the Moon level will be easier (and more cheeseable) than the stupid jump rope moon is; at least you can use Assist Mode it if you really want to. But Rope? Rope isn’t having none of that shit.

The real technique to getting this goddamn moon.

In all honesty there is a way to glitch the game by using the MARIO letters in New Donk City, but even that appears to be quite a challenge. What you do is clip a letter outside of its boundary and simply sit on it while the rope clips through the letter. With you on top of the letter or hanging on the side the game registers you “jumping over” the rope and this is why all the high scores for the jump rope challenge are all 99999: people cheesed the game with a glitch. But in all honesty getting the moon via glitch seems more rewarding and satisfying than trying to jump that fucking rope 100 times. Let’s just pretend the moon jump rope champion really is titled “MARIO Letters Out-of-Bounds CLIP CHAMPION!” because that’s much more fitting. Fuck jump rope.

Mario basking in the glory of his newly-acquired moon as the rope clips through his foot.

Note: If you read the post on my birthday you know that I actually beat this horrible challenge via the MARIO letter glitch. Truthfully, I don’t even feel guilty about it because glitching the letters out of bounds was way more fun and fulfilling than tapping a perfectly 100+ times would’ve been. I have no guilt and you shouldn’t either if you try to 100% the game.

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Zelda Intros Suck: Twilight Princess

(As you can see, I nearly gave up on the header image. I couldn’t be bothered to play the game again to get a decent picture so I screenshotted some dudes YouTube video of the intro cutscene. I couldn’t be bothered to properly caption it so I tossed up some Comic Sans because why the fuck not? I just didn’t care.)

In my last post I shit all over the The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword because it had an insufferable introduction filled with dialogue-tutorials and it was frustrating having to “play” for over an hour just to get to play the game. Even after the intro I was constantly interrupted by whatever  my sword and couldn’t enjoy the game at all. I also hinted that The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was just as bad, if not worse, although I didn’t elaborate on it because that would’ve turned into a very long post. So here it is! Why Twilight Princess — at least the introduction — is fucking awful.

I’ll recap the introduction the best I can because it’s been awhile since I played the game. This is probably good because you can see how nothing coherent happened, at least when you try to recall it. It goes something like this: There was something about kids and a sword and a slingshot and a shield and somewhere along that mess you turn into a fucking dog with some wierd whateverthefuck Midna following you around. You fish and get some random lantern from a stoner and can buy oil from a parrot. You can use grass to call hawks to get mice or something. Twilight descends, monsters appear, and three or four kids get kidnapped. And then they make you herd goats. Twice. Eventually, after an hour and a half I made it to the first fucking dungeon after saving some kids and finding some glow-ball thingys. After an hour and a half. I legit timed myself too. The beginning was just a mess. I had no idea what was going on.

The game catches its stride after that (be wolf, find glowy things, be human, beat dungeon) but holy fuck they could probably design a game intro better than that. I understand the idea of plot and world building and tutorials at the beginning but Twilight Princess beat it all into the ground with about 20 random things tossed at you in an hour. It’s a fucking mess and in that first hour you’re seriously wondering what the fuck, if anything, is actually going on. I think I’ve started Twilight Princess like 3 or 4 times and only finished it once. The beginning is that fucking bad. I thought Dark Souls was hard to get into…

I guess I have this idea of “the Great Zelda Game” in my head. The last game I played was The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and while I shit upon it a little bit for the Master Sword “quest” it’s an amazingly wonderful and beautiful game. Nostalgia goggles aside it’ll probably be one of my favorite Zelda games ever. At the very least its intro blows Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword out of the water because of one primary reason: there isn’t an intro. Whereas those two beat you over the head for over an hour with tutorials, cutscenes, and random shit like fishing, Breath of the Wild says “Hey, grab that tablet over there. Have some clothes. Here’s how you climb a cliff. See ya!” And you get to play the game right away. The one dude that can give you some idea of plot or purpose doesn’t say a whole lot and you can just ignore him if you want. The game doesn’t force you into the plot at all, and when it does you’re about an hour or so into the game and can deal with a short cutscene or two. Breath of the Wild succeeds because it tosses you into the game and the world without any explanation. It’s a big and mysterious world because the game didn’t explain a damn thing to you and you’re left to explore and discover things on your own just as intended.

What about Ocarina of Time, the definitive “Great Zelda Game”? The Great Dickhead Deku Tree needs to see you. Dildo Mido won’t let you pass until you have a sword and a shield. You find those in about 5 or ten minutes and BAM you’re in the first fucking dungeon after the Great Dickhead Tree explains a few things to you. You get to play the game right away.

What about Wind Waker? You overslept and need to go to Granny’s house because it’s your birthday. Something happens with your sister and you save her and BAM! You’re on an adventure with some pirates and you get to play the game right away. Sure the game doesn’t really pick up steam until you get your ass off Windfall Island but at least you feel like you’re progressing the game. Wind Waker has its flaws but they sure don’t occur in the first fucking hour of the game.

Twilight Princess

Well…yeah…

And don’t even get me started on Majora’s Mask! You’re walking in the woods about a minute into the game and BAM! Some dickhead steals your horse and makes your day very shitty by trying to end the world. Within a minute or two of starting you’re playing the goddamned game.

Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword beat you endlessly over the head with total bullshit before you even get to play the game. It’s frustrating especially as a person replaying the games because I have fond memories of them as great games. But I’d like to play the game and not watch an hour of cutscenes, random tutorials, and pointless plot elements at the start of the game. This is probably made worse because the last game I played in the Zelda series was Breath of the Wild, a masterpiece of minimalistic design that didn’t beat you over the head with anything (other than Koroks). Even compared to older Zelda games the introductions of these two are bloated and do nothing to let you have fun playing the games. While they’re great games at their cores, you need to actually get to the gameplay to find the greatness! I loved the games and will probably power through to get to the actual game, but fuck, those intros almost broke my fucking spirit and will to play. They fucking Suck.