Deconfined and Swimming

My first week back at the office felt horrible. The day before the big come back, my left ear got inflamed, probably because of allergies, so I felt like crap before it even begun. I also had a little problem under my right foot which made walking painful. At the office, people didn’t care much about social distancing, I spent the day walking backwards to keep a safe distance. As if it wasn’t enough, I had an allergic reaction to soy (my kryptonite) on Friday.

Happily, we can now swim in Animal Crossing: New Horizons and it is super fun, especially doing cannonballs and meeting Pascal, the wisdom otter.

Thimbleweed Park

I remember this kitchen from somewhere…

It seems that I’ve been catching back on games that were on my list for much too long. It may have to do with the fact that we’ve quit a long-played MMORPG that was taking all our precious free time…

The very first game that I’ve ever completed in my life was Maniac Mansion on C64. From the moment that I had figured how to use the key that was hidden under the doormat to open the front door, I was sold to point-and-click games. Since then, I’ve been playing a lot of them, mostly on Amiga and PC.

Even if many of these games are excellent, my favourite ones have always been those developped by Ron Gilbert. So, it is no surprise that I highly enjoyed playing Thimbleweed Park. I love everything about it, the graphics, the setting, the characters, the music, the voices, the sense of humour and the dialogs. Thimbleweed Park is very high on my top ten favourite games of all times, it could actually be my number one.

Things I didn’t know about the game:

  • Many names found in the game’s phone book are from Kickstarter backers from around the world. When you call their numbers, you will hear individual messages from them;
  • Dr. Fred, Nurse Edna, and one of the tentacles from the game Maniac Mansion attend Ransom’s performance;
  • Ransom’s insults are censored. However, for 0,79€, you can purchase a DLC that enables the unbeeped voice;
  • From the start, Gilbert says, they wanted to parody the TV shows Twin PeaksThe X-Files, and True Detective.

AI in Adventure Games

Yesterday, while watching an episode of Westworld, I thought about how cool it would be if point-and-click games would use an AI… Instead of scripted characters who are always at the same place, saying the same things, we could find them speaking to each other, wander around, have different dialog lines following their moods.

For example, we would enter Thimbleweed Park and Delores could be home but she could also be at the arcade or at the dinner, living her own life.

Of course, there would be boundaries, for the sake of the story, but everything else would be left to the AI. I could spend days looking at game characters interact with the environment and with each other in a completely unpredictable and unscripted way.

Zelda – Link’s Awakening (2019)

Link’s Awakening wasn’t only my first Zelda game, it was also the first game I completed, not only on Game Boy, but on any Nintendo gaming system. Yep, you read well, I never owned a console before the Game Boy. I was a computer dude and by the time that the original Link’s Awakening was released, I was gaming on an Amiga 1200.

Anyway, that year, I had a very nasty bronchitis that kept me home for several weeks (smoking sucks, glad I quit). All I had to cheer me up was the video club and my Game Boy.

I was already used to play adventure games, but this was entirely new to me. The island exploration unlocking as I solved dungeon puzzles and gained new powers that enabled me to jump further or carry heavier rocks, it was brilliant.

Soon, I was known to be the dude who had completed the game and my friends were calling me everyday to know the next step of the trading sequence. Were those my 15 minutes of fame?

When I found out that Nintendo was about to release a remake of the game, I was overjoyed, especially because I instantly loved the art of the new version. I purchased the game and added it to my backlog.

Last week-end, I’ve finally completed Link’s Awakening and I have enjoyed every minute of it. The game is almost identical to the original, only with cute new graphics. I’m probably going to play it again soon… Some day… (let’s be real, my backlog is huge).

A few facts about Link’s Awakening that I didn’t know until recently:

  • Development began after-hours by Nintendo staff. It grew into an original project under the direction of Takashi Tezuka;
  • The majority of the Link to the Past team reassembled for Link’s Awakening;
  • Tezuka wanted the game world to feel like the television series Twin Peaks.
  • Princess Zelda is not featured at all in Link’s Awakening, though she is referenced by Link, initially confusing Marin for her;
  • Peach isn’t the only thing from Mario that you can find in Link’s Awakening, there are also Goombas.

To many people Breath of the Wild is the Zelda Game of the Nintendo Switch, to me it’s the remake of Link’s Awakening.

The Charnel House Trilogy

The Charnel House Trilogy, developed by Owl Cave, is a point & click game with pixel graphics. As the title states the game is in 3 parts: Inhale, Sepulchre, and Exhale. The story is about a horrifying and fatal night aboard a train bound for Augur Peak. Even though the game is pretty short, the developers managed to create an eerie atmosphere that puts you at ill-ease in times.

My favourite scene is the one at the station, waiting for the train while snow’s falling on the abandoned tracks is so dreamy. Despite the current summer temperatures, Alex gave me the chills though. I mean, who goes out in the snow in just a T-shirt? I’d be wrapped up like an Eskimo!

Anyway, I’ve played this game a few years ago, and remembered how much I loved it at that time. Meanwhile, I’ve played so many other games that I’ve forgotten most of the story of The Charnel House Trilogy so, I planned to re-play it this weekend.

Today, after a great walk at the park, a super delicious sandwich, and a damn fine cup of coffee, I installed myself at my desk, and booted this little gem. Two hours later, I had already finished the entire story. While it was very short, the adventure was worthwhile. The puzzles are a bit too easy, but it made the trip go smooth, and without any challenge. I can understand that some people may have an issue with that, but it didn’t really bother me that much. Props for the pixel graphics cause I’m a complete sucker for these. All in all, an absolute must for all adventure games fans.

Doom Eternal

I can’t believe what I’m about to write, but I don’t enjoy Doom Eternal. In fact, it has been the low point of my week-end.

The game is visually stunning, the music is cool and I really enjoy the character customisation. As in the previous Doom, my favourite part is to discover the hidden secrets.

However, the action scenes are pretty frustrating due to the lack of ammunitions. I usually don’t mind searching for ammo crates and I even enjoy replaying a scene once or twice just to make sure I collected everything, but having to switch the chainsaw in order to get restocked disrupts the action and works on my nerves.

Maybe, I’m getting to old to change habits that were built throughout decades of gaming. But, reading the comments on forums, it doesn’t seem like I’m the only one frustrated by this.

Why not giving us a fun shooter where you decimate the legions of hell in a non-stop action spree? After all isn’t it what Doom is all about?

I’ll probably give it another try when the bitter taste of this launch week-end has faded…

Countdown to ACNH

Tomorrow Animal Crossing: New Horizons will be released, and as you can see, I am ready for it!

With the COVID-19 pandemic, my flu-like symptoms and quarantine, this couldn’t be a better timing. If you would have told me at the beginning of the new year that the whole world would be on a lockdown at some point due to a deadly virus, I would have laughed, thinking you watch way too much survival stuff on TV. Yet, here we are, and it would be pretty boring if it were not for netflix and video games. So yes, ACNH is more than welcome at this very moment.

Blizzard’s Backlash

Cataclysm was the first time I was disappointed by Blizzard. So many of my favourite zones were ruined by Deathwing and the new zones were not as great as Storm Peaks, Teldrassil or Shadowmoon Valley… By wanting to do too much, they had lost something.

Diablo 3 was released and it was crippled by the real money auction house. Instead of giving more love to the games that I was playing, they started creating more franchises that I didn’t care about. That’s when I’ve lost the connection I had with the company.

Their fanbase changed and I had less and less the feeling to belong in the community, only to a small part of it.

Those criticisms come from my own experience with their products. Unlike the criticisms that are turned against their behaviour as a company.

People got mad over the layoffs at Blizzard, then they were angry at them for banning a Hearthstone player who broke the rules of his contract.

First, I find it not my place to judge the behaviour of the company regarding the way they handle their management. If they need to do cuts in the staff, it’s their duty to do so.

Second, regarding the Hearthstone player, why is there a rule in the contract that says that players cannot state political opinions? Not because we should all hold hands together and sing songs, but specifically to avoid the kind of situations where you force a company to pick side, at the eventual expense of a part of their market.

Why do people get so mad? I believe that the backlash is very emotional because Blizzard build its success on creating a community of fans. They were the good guys, the geeks making games for the geeks.

I will never forget Chris Metzen’s speech during the Blizzcon 2010.

It’s not because Blizzard is now seen as a corporation instead of a bunch a cool dudes making games that there are no more cool dudes at Blizzard. They are still there and they probably have the same opinions as us, but they also know when to leave the business aside and focus on the real reason why we are all here: live epic adventures.

Diablo remains the Hack’n Slash franchise I’ve played the most in my life and is only second to World of Warcraft when it comes to the amount of hours I already spent in a game. To me, that’s what matters and that’s why I’ll continue playing Blizzard games as long as I have fun.

Diablo 3: The Darkening of Tristram

The anniversary event, The darkening of Tristram, has returned this year. I’ve already completed the Diablo 1 inspired dungeon on my PC, but I also wanted to run the event on my Switch. This time, I rolled a Necromancer. It was good fun exploring the labyrinth once again.

I’ve made some notes for the future since some things are easily forgotten:

When you start, make sure you start a fresh level 1 character. Run straight from the Old Ruins waypoint to the portal for The Darkening of Tristram without killing any mobs on the way. Once passed through the portal, you run straight to the Labyrinth without clicking anything. Clicking the cows, dead bodies,… will come later when you have obtained the necessary items. They are important for getting certain achievements, pets,… during the event.

The Butcher pet was the first one I got by clearing the dungeon with a fresh level 1 character solo. This will grant you the ‘An Eerie Red Glow Blurs Your Vision’ achievement and the Butcher pet at the end.

The Ogden’s Sign, and Ogden’s Brew (both banners), Red Soul Shard (legendary headslot gem), and The Butcher’s Cleaver (transmog) are easily obtainable since they are guaranteed rewards from killing bosses in the labyrinth. You clear the entire dungeon once and you have all of these for sure.

The next one is more tricky since it was bugged once again. How to get the plans for The Wirt’s Leg (transmog) and The Royal Calf (pet):

  • In Level 9 of the dungeon, you will find the Black Mushroom, click on it to obtain a Rotten Mushroom;
  • Go back to Old Tristram and find Adria’s Hut. Throw the Rotten Mushroom inside the cauldron to obtain Witch’s Brew;
  • Click the four corpses in town in this order: Farnham, Ogden, Pepin, and Griswold. The last corpse will drop the plan for Wirt’s Leg;
  • Then you can teleport back to town and teach it to the Blacksmith. You’ll find the plans under the Maces section. Now here’s where you have to pay attention since it was bugged 2 years in a row: If the plan is blue in stead of orange (legendary) don’t craft it! It costs 1 million gold to craft and a blue one (the bug) won’t do it. It has to be orange! They fixed the bug a few days later, but the damage was already done, I had lost a few million trying to craft the right Wirt’s Leg. I also had to first log into another character and then go back to my necromancer before the plan appeared legendary.
  • After you’ve crafted the legendary Wirt’s Leg, you have to salvage it so it offers up the Map of the Stars, which reads 2-1-3;
  • Go back to Adria’s Hut and click on the cow corpses in this order: middle (2), left (1), then right (3). This will open the Abandoned Farmstead portal;
  • Head through the portal and find Wirt’s Stash. Open the chest to get the Cow Pet Trinket and right-click it to earn the Royal Calf.

The Classic Demon Portrait is a reward for killing 40 unique classic monsters in the Anniversary dungeon, gaining you ‘The Protector of Tristram’ achievement. The full list of unique monsters:

  • Level 2: Rotfeast the Hungry, Shadowbite
  • Level 3: Brokenhead Bangshield, Madeye the Dead
  • Level 4: Blacklash the Burning, Gharbad the Weak, Snotspill
  • Level 5: Bloodskin Darkbow, Foulwing, Shadowcrow
  • Level 6: Bilefroth the Pit Master, Bloodgutter, Deathshade Fleshmaul
  • Level 7: Blighthorn Steelmace, Gorestone, Nightwing the Cold
  • Level 8: Baron Sludge, Firewound the Grim, Zhar the Mad
  • Level 9: Breakspine, Brokenstorm, Oozedrool
  • Level 10: Blackstorm, Goldblight of the Flame, The Flayer
  • Level 11: Bluehorn, Fangspeir
  • Level 12: Lionskull the Bent, Viletouch, Viperflame
  • Level 13: Rustweaver, Warlord of Blood, Witchmoon
  • Level 14: Graywar the Slayer, Steelskull the Hunter, Stareye the Witch
  • Level 15: The Vizier
  • Unholy Altar: Blackjade, Red Vex
  • Level 16: Sir Gorash

The Classic Angel portrait is awarded from the ‘I Sense a Soul in Search of Answers’ achievement. You can get this achievement by collecting all 7 Cultist’s Page items which are dropped by Temporal Priests. They can be found in the following locations:

  • Act I: The Weeping Hollow, Festering Woods, Cathedral levels 1, 2 and 4, Halls of Agony levels 1, 2 and 3;
  • Act II: Dahlgur Oasis, Desolate Sands;
  • Act III: Keep Depths 1, 2 and 3, Stonefort, Rakkis Crossing, Arreat Crater 1, Tower of the Damned 1, The Core of Arreat;
  • Act IV: Gardens of Hope 1, 2 and 3, Silver Spire 1 and 2, Hell Rift 1;
  • Act V: Westmarch Commons, Westmarch Heights, Paths of the Drowned, Battlefields of Eternity.

There can only be one Temporal Priest per location, which may drop duplicate pages so, be ready for several runs. They also drop while doing bounties so, you don’t necessarily need to complete this achievement with the same character you started the event with. Beware that you can’t trade these pages with a seasonal character!

I just finished the event for the second time, and I hope that everybody had as much fun as I had. Meanwhile, season 16 has started, and I’m experimenting with a new Witch Doctor build. But, more about that later!

Building the Picade

I wanted to do it for a very long time and I finally did… I’ve built my very own Picade! I’ve done it while watching this video.

It took me two afternoons. The quality of the build is impressive, but what impressed me the most was the Raspberry Pi itself. It loads much faster than I expected and it is very easy to upload the roms wirelessly from my Mac via SMB.

Below is a small gallery of the building process. It starts with the frame and ends with the wiring.

I’d advise it to anyone who enjoys building things and playing retro games. Retropie doesn’t only emulates Mame roms, you can find the complete list of supported systems here. You don’t need any knowledge in electronics and no soldering is required. With a bit of logic, you can do anything.

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