Thanks to the holidays I finally finished Dragon Age: Inquisition (~110 hours) and Danganronpa 2 (~35 hours) — more posts on both of those later — which left me with a rather large hole in my relaxation schedule. I bought a few things during the Steam Holiday sale, but they were mostly puzzle games and didn’t feel like suitably dense follow-ups. After Dragon Age and DR I wanted something with a little more narrative. I wanted something I could optionally play with my partner, and didn’t require too much time or mental effort. I wanted something with silly hats. I wanted…
I wanted an MMO!
A few months back I had dabbled a bit in Final Fantasy XIV, and it seemed like the best candidate for a return. The mechanics of the game are very much in the tradition of WoW-likes (hotbar combat and such), but pleasantly different enough thanks to the Asian design style and huge legacy of Final Fantasy lore. I’ve been actively avoiding any reading or research on the game because it’s more fun right now to just bumble around and figure stuff out.
In fact, FFXIV hits a nice sweet spot for me as far as “casual” MMO playing goes. There are many, many optional grinds what with the multi-class system and separate crafting classes, as well as the hunting and sightseeing logs. I can focus on leveling my main class (Conjurer, obvs) if I feel like being productive, or just run around killing things or hitting trees if I want to put a movie up on the other monitor and chill out. Later in the game there’s chocobo breeding and guild houses to investigate, and each step of the main questline provides a lot of story and character.
Also the hats. Just look at this hat I got last night as part of the New Year holiday event:
It’s.. a samurai sheep hat. With a mustache. And the “wool” jiggles as you move. It’s totally ludicrous, and I love it.
So anyway, after a break of many months I seem to be playing an MMO on a regular basis again. I’m not sure why it clicked now, or why exactly FFXIV, but it did and suddenly I’m having a lot of fun. 2015 is off to a good start!
I wasn’t going to do one of these because I already tried to be all poignant and shit in my birthday post, but it looks like most of my blog friends have a 2014 wrap-up and I’m a sucker for a trending topic.
Cool Internet Things That Happened This Year
* Created 8bit Kitchen, a collaborative food blog.
* Became a founding member of The Gaming and Entertainment Network along with a bunch of other cool blogger folks.
* Briefly played with video editing for Totally Legit Movies, which was super fun but also super time consuming.
* Was part of bunch of awesome interviews on GameOn, in particular Jeremy Gaffney right after the launch of WildStar.
* Hit 1000 followers on Twitter!
* Appeared as a guest on a couple of episodes of the much missed Contains Moderate Peril podcast.
* Along with Ellyndrial raised over $1400 for our local children’s hospitals during the Extra Life Marathon thanks to folks like YOU.
Cool Things I Wrote This Year
These are some of my favorite posts of 2014.
* A Modest Proposal About Boobs
* An Unofficial Guide to Firelands (I stole this from Elly)
* Friday Five: I Told You So Edition (being right feels so good)
* MMOs Are Dead and I Don’t Feel So Good Myself (speaking of being right)
* Talking to Depression (it’s, um, depressing but I like this post)
* Hot Gamer Trend of 2014: Alienation (ugggggh)
Internet Goals for 2015
1. Refocus this blog here and buckle down on writing. I’ve been kind of dithering because, unnngh, I’m not really into MMOs lately so I could write about other games but sometimes I want to write about movies and gadgets and oh god I don’t know let’s just watch more Netflix. Figure out what you want to have as your focus, Liore, and write it. Slacker.
2. Retweet more cool things on Twitter.
3. Guest on more podcasts. It’s fun to see how other podcasts are run and join in the conversation, so I should be a little more proactive about finding opportunities.
4. Post more on 8bit Kitchen! I cook all the time but I’m too lazy to take photos of it.
5. The goal for Cat Context is.. um.. just keep bein’ weird.
Real Life Observation for 2014
I am ending 2014 in a pretty damn fine place in my personal and professional life, mostly thanks to making a huge leap of faith and throwing caution to the wind. Clearly 2015 is gonna be awesome. :)
And, of course, the IRC Crew (you know who you are). Thanks for keeping me sane, listening to me whine, and being the smartest, funniest, best bunch of bastards on the internet. <3
Okay let’s get the “tsk”ing portion of this post over with early: I started smoking when I was 16 and an idiot teenager. I quit for a year here and there, and in the last few years I’d dropped down to smoking 3 or 4 cigarettes a day at most. Smoking has some pretty obvious downsides like going outside in the winter, and, y’know, all the terrible associated diseases.
Despite all of that though, I like smoking. It gives my hands something to do when I fret. “Popping outside for a smoke” is my favorite way of taking a break from stressful social situations, and I’ve met some pretty rad people outside in the smoking areas over the years. (I guess huddling close together under a tiny overhang during a rain storm is a good ice breaker.) I’ve used a cigarette as punctuation in so many conversations, angrily jabbing it in the air to emphasize a point or screwing up my face in confusion as I exhale out of one side of my mouth.
But again… diseases. It’s hard to ignore those, particularly as a mostly sensible adult.
Thanks to a timely and appreciated gift from Santa I was able to invest in a vape over the weekend. As of today I’ve been analogue-smoke-free for four days and I haven’t shouted at anyone, which is probably the best (and most succinct) review I could give. But read on if you’re interested in more details of The Future of Smoking.
If you start researching vapes and e-cigarettes, you’ll quickly realize that they’ve established their own little culture, which seems pretty similar to hotrod culture. People (mostly dudes) are extremely into modding and upgrading their vapes, building their own heat coils, and blending their own juices, and while that’s cool it can also be a little intimidating to someone like me who just wants to quit smoking in the easiest way possible. There’s lots of talk about “vaping tough” and “throat hits” and who can produce the most vapor and … yeah. Just ignore all that.
Vapes are generally made up of three sections: the battery, the chamber where the juice goes and the heating happens, and the tip where you put your mouth. In my case I’m using an “iStick” by eLeaf for my battery, which amusingly enough is recharged via mini-USB like most other tech peripherals. My chamber is a Nautilus Mini, which promises to be the “next generation of clearomizer tank systems” (see what I mean about all the jargon?) and holds up to 2ml of juice at once which is apparently quite good. The tip is, um, whatever the guy at the store stuck on it.
The vape juice itself comes in different nicotine concentrations (I use 6mg, which is on the low side) and a whole world of flavors. Apparently most quitters think they want a juice that tastes like tobacco and while I thought that myself at first I’m glad I went with the suggestion of getting something different. When you really think about it, cigarettes taste pretty gross. Why not upgrade?
I’m using the “Dolce Nero Te” (sweet black tea) by P.O.E.T. and I really like it. It’s sweet and flavorful without making me think of candy. My runner-up and the next bottle I’ll buy is Khaleesi by Wicked, which is described as “strawberry and apple with a menthol finish” and was quite pleasant. There are some pretty terrible flavors out there too — I tried one that was supposed to taste like Fruit Loops and yep, that sure tastes like I’m smoking a kid’s breakfast cereal — so you may want to wander down to your local vape shop to try before you buy.
It took me a few tries to get the hang of smoking from the vape, but now I get a good amount of smoke that satisfies my urges. And although the vapor has almost no scent to those around you, it feels right in my mouth and looks right when I exhale, which is a big contributor to my brain accepting the vape instead of a cigarette.
I have found a few downsides to switching to a vape but they’re pretty minimal. The form factor is larger, and I think if I didn’t carry a handbag around it might be a pain to keep it in my pocket all the time. Also refilling the chamber with juice is kind of awkward and takes some practice.
My setup was about $70 for the rig plus $13 for the bottle of juice. The fellow at the store guessed I’d go through a bottle a week, but it looks like in practice it’ll be more like every two weeks. That’s actually not much less than I was paying for cigarettes at my low consumption rate, but a definite improvement from a health perspective.
So far I’ve been very satisfied with my decision to switch from cigarettes to a vape. It tastes better, is better for me, and I kind of feel like a cool robot lady from the future when I use it.
I watch most of my movies through digital distribution instead of going to the theatre, but when I review the lists of great movies in 2014 it all seems a little .. meh. I commented on Twitter that this may not be a great year for movies, and was soundly and properly rebuked.
Mr. Game Introspection here is absolutely correct in retrospect. There were a number of popular and great movies that were released this year, I just didn’t see them.
I do need to make more of an effort to see new movies. Nightcrawler looks great but not “$40 for a ticket + gas + popcorn AND I have to put on grown-up pants” great. Same for Birdman. Gone Girl was a fun and gripping book that I highly recommend, so I imagine the movie is also great. Boyhood and Interstellar both irritate me on principle, probably unfairly. Basically what I’m saying is that apparently I’m a big fussy grump.
(Also let 2014 go on the record as the year I got over Christopher Nolan already. Like you guys, Inception wasn’t even that good and don’t get me started on the “let’s just rely on the volunteerism of our corporate leaders to save us” final Libertarian Batman movie.)
Wait, this is #Listmas so I guess I should come up with some kind of list? Hmmm.
Best Use of a Hollywood Budget
I saw three movies in the theatre in 2014: Guardians of the Galaxy, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and Mockingjay Part 1. All three were a lot of fun and movies I will absolutely watch again on Netflix or whatever. Not GREAT FILMS or anything, but excellent popcorn flicks.
Best Movie That Was Way Better Than It Had Any Right To Be
I only watched +1 because Netflix kept insisting I would like it and I was expecting a kind of dumb teen killer movie. What I got instead was a more interesting and thoughtful time travel thriller with an ending that will sit with you for a while.
Best Effort from the New American Horror Crowd
Man, You’re Next is so much fun. It’s a slasher movie for people who love slasher movies and I watched it with a grin on my face the entire time.
Best Indie Horror
I have to give it to 2013’s Jug Face, which I watched this year. It’s not fancy, but the movie is a good story about family and one woman’s attempts to break away from (sometimes horrifying) tradition.
Best Foreign Horror
This one was EASY — Rigor Mortis is a quirky and unsettling visual feast starring Chinese ghosts and a vampire with very strict rules.
Liore’s Favorite Movie of 2014
Snowpiercer is directed by Bong Joon-Ho, who also made two of my favorite older movies, The Host and Memories of Murder. It’s a crunchy dystopian vision that is a terrible delight to behold. The cast is damn talented, the setting is grimdark, the plot is both real and a glorious allegory. I love this movie a lot and it was far and away the best thing I saw in 2014.
It’s the Second Annual Trivial Showdown!
This year Team Aro (Arolaide and Corr) faced off again Team Elly (Ellyndrial and Mangle) in the most extreme battle of wits ever. Okay not quite but they do answer multiple choice questions, solve anagrams, and encounter the evil and capricious Question Master.. who is Liore. Obviously.
Do you know what animal the Bioware designers used as inspiration for Krogan heads? Which number in the series is Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare? What 2014 game’s title can be made up of the letters “nationalize oil”? Will this episode just be 40 minutes of the Google Hangout’s cricket noise? Listen in to find out!
Also we talk about Dragon Age a bit because Liore and Aro seriously can not stop talking about it.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS EVERYONE!
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* PROOF that some of the sets of Silent Hill were inspired by a family comedy. I’m talkin’ to you, Aro.
* Free Music Archive page for our theme, in THE crowd by The Years