No Man’s Sky — Sixty Hours In

One month later — sixty hours in — I’m continuing to enjoy No Man’s Sky. You would think  that a random assortment of planets would make for a story that feels sort of, you know, random. But instead the story feels dramatic, with twists and turns.

For example, after several planets where dangerous “animals” jumped out of hiding and attacked me, this latest planet seemed quiet.

Too quiet.


Welcome to Chadwickia 913!

The first half-hour I spent here, I jumped every time I heard a noise or saw a shadow out of the corner of my eye. I’m finally starting to relax and let down my guard.

I have not yet seen any forms of “animal” life except for these underwater organisms


At one point I saw something deep underwater that looked like bones — a giant ribcage from a huge vertebrate?  Uh oh, if there’s dead ones, there could be live ones nearby…

On closer examination, though, they turned out to be random rock formations, not “ribs” at all.

Are there any life forms here that we would call “animals”? In 3 hours of exploring, the only thing I have found that moved was this curled up plant-worm-scorpion thing. It lashed out at me as I walked by and sprayed me with a mist of toxic liquid.


The Toxic Squirt is the coiled up spiral thing on the far right.

Could this be one of the few underwater “animal” life forms that made it onto the land? Or is this a specialized plant, more like a Venus Fly Trap?



One Year Gap

It has been about a year since I’ve written here!

I have had some wonderful experiences in the gaming world in the past year…

First of all, I finished Mass Effect 2 around Thanksgiving.

The plot of ME 2 is that Commander Shepard gets the old gang back together in order to carry out an extremely important mission…one which will probably result in the death of the entire crew even if the mission is successful. A suicide mission. As Commander Shepard recruits team members, sooner or later they work up the courage to ask her if there is something they could take care of, some unfinished business, before the final mission takes place. As Commander Shepard and her crewmates go through these experiences, they bond as a team and as friends. In my playthrough, Joan Shepard developed a close friendship with the icy perfectionist Amanda, and fell in love with Thane Krios. With Amanda forging ahead, clearing the way with her bionics, and Thane at her side, Shepard was able to get her entire team through the mission. Even Zaeed, who was not loyal, made it through.

I then moved on to Mass Effect 3.

However, I got stuck a few months in and haven’t yet returned to the Mass Effect universe. The story is very dark right now. Every planet we visit is in the process of being destroyed. Garrus is endlessly worried about his family (caught behind enemy lines) and Thane is far away, slowly dying of Kepral’s syndrome. The ship was ravaged when it was re-possessed after Commander Shepard’s court martial (long story) and looks gloomy and derelict. Exposed cables and pipes everywhere. On the plus side, it’s great to have Liara back on board, and I like the new crew members Steve Cortez and James Vega. The DLC “Leviathan” was beautiful and exciting, and I still have the DLC “The Citadel” to look forward to. I will definitely be back.

My son introduced me to Undertale.

Over Christmas break, in a massive session that lasted til 6 am, he took me through a pacifist run. (He handled the combat and I did the exploring.) What an amazing experience — excellent story, and the art and music was a big part of the emotional impact. As the final scenes rolled, I had to blink back tears. Happy tears!

During bleakest February I started Dark Souls 1.

…And all spring and summer I slogged away. Since I had literally NEVER had a game controller in my hands before, there was a steep learning curve. As of July, with the help of my son, two of his friends, and the ever-cheerful Solaire, I was able to survive Blighttown and ring the second bell. Then when I returned to Firelink Shrine, there was a very weird new character where the pond used to be. I still haven’t spoken to him. I’ve watched several play-throughs and I know what he wants.  He will send me to Sen’s Fortress, and I don’t want to go.

That was July. In August I started…No Man’s Sky.

The varied worlds of No Man’s Sky remind me of the different landscapes and environments I’ve seen in Minecraft — those wonderful, evocative landscapes of the imagination. I have been so immersed in No Man’s Sky for the past month that my Facebook friends are tired of  hearing about it.

So that’s why I’ve dusted off this blog!



The Making of Mass Effect

Here is a series of videos about the making of the video game Mass Effect. What I like about these videos is that they talk about the creative process. At one point they say “we wanted to create a world that we would like to visit”. That was inspiring to me because I have ideas for a science fiction story that takes place on one of my Minecraft worlds!




There are also videos # 5, 6, and 7.


A Summer of Gaming

It’s hard to believe, it’s been more than 6 months since my last post! It has been a busy summer.

One of the projects this summer was to dip my toe into the world of gaming.
As you know, I have spent a lot of time with Minecraft (as a sandbox game) and Minecraft editing software. Many years before that (in the late ’90s, when my son was a baby!) I played Myst and Riven. I even read the novels that went along with the games.

Myst series

Those games seem so primitive now — there was no motion, they were just a series of stationary slides with a few rare cut scenes. Nonetheless, I became deeply immersed in those worlds. When I listen to the the soundtracks now, I feel such a sense of nostalgia for those places I had visited. The fantasy / science fiction basis for the games’ storylines was, if someone learned the art of writing “linking books”, they could link to other worlds. (It was left unanswered whether these worlds had been created by the writer, or if the worlds had existed previously!) Myst centered on the character of Atrus, a creator of linking books, and his two problematic sons, Sirus and Achenar. Riven continued the story of Atrus, added his brave and resourceful wife Catherine, and Atrus’ deeply disturbed father Gehn. I loved the grumpy but well-intentioned Atrus, and (spoiler) cheered when Atrus and Catherine were reunited. Part of the fun of it was that I identified with Atrus — a slightly paunchy middle-aged geek (played by Rand Miller).

Atrus and Catherine Riven


THIS summer, I decided to try something completely new. I had been listening to the excellent podcasts of Alex and Sharon Shaw

They have deep, thoughtful (and often hilarious) discussions of favorite movies, games, and other topics in the geek world. When I tried some of their movie recommendations, I found that I often liked the same sort of things they did. So I decided to take a stab at one of their favorite games, Bioshock Infinite.


Here are my impressions. Like Myst and Riven, Bioshock Infinite had an excellent science fiction storyline and characters I came to care about. The graphics were spectacular and the world was “immersive”. However, unlike Myst and Riven, there were many scenes of blood and violence. It wasn’t gratuitous violence (it was a very important part of the story), but it was shocking and stressful. I never did get the hang of using the weapons. Times of exploration were constantly interrupted by tedious combat episodes. I needed my expert gamer son to take over, in order to reach the end of the story!

Now I have moved on to another favorite of Alex and Sharon, the Mass Effect series. I am playing as a female Commander Shepherd — or as she is sometimes known, “femshep”. It was so cool to be able to personalize my character by choosing her appearance and background story.

femshep blue eyes

I also get to choose (from moment to moment) her way of treating the people she meets and the situations she finds herself in. The “Paragon” approach is one of diplomacy. Paragon Commander Shepherd works to win crewmates’ loyalty with compassion and attention. Renegade Shepherd has a brusque approach and will give the crewmates a (usually metaphorical) smack upside the head to spur them into action. Some people respond well to this form of leadership, and so a Renegade Shepherd can also end up with a loyal crew. Paragon calm

I have started the Mass Effect series by jumping right into Mass Effect 2 because (as Alex and Sharon have said), its combat system is simpler. I still find the combat boring and frustrating, and I die a lot, even on the easiest mode. However, I’m enjoying the game SO much more than I did Bioshock Infinite. There’s a higher fun / tedium ratio — more things to do that don’t involve getting shot at — such as chatting with my crewmates, mining planets for resources, learning about alien species, even poking around sleazy marketplaces for bargains. When I went to a scrap shop and found the T6-FBA coupling that my ship engineers had been wishing for, I literally shouted in delight.

I’m currently working on the mission to Omega station to find the infamous “Archangel” — who (spoiler) turns out to be a good friend and comrade from Mass Effect 1. So far I have died and seen the following screen half a dozen times.



How I hate combat!! But — I’m looking forward to meeting and interacting with all the Mass Effect characters (whom Alex and Sharon Shaw have talked so much about in their very spoilery podcasts)!

Mass Effect characters