#207: The Solo Mode

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When it comes to playing Hearthstone, one of my favorite parts is the solo adventures mode. There are other modes, like the ranked and practice and arena offerings, but to me, the solo adventures are the icing on the cake that is Hearthstone. It’s considered PVE (which stands for Player vs. Environment, rather than Player vs. Player), so it’s against computers rather than actual human beings. That’s fine with me, as it takes a lot of the stress out of playing the game. Consequently, there’s no turn timer, so I can take as long as I want on my turns and not have to worry about it being too long. Patience is key and, especially while doing other, more productive things, I can focus on one while ignoring the other and not feel rushed around.

The solo mode typically features around 8 bosses, one faced after another, and you have to build a deck of cards by picking from 3-card offerings after each boss. You have to build your deck from a basic starting deck up to something more meaningful and powerful. You pick treasures that are absurdly powerful after every few bosses, but you soon realize that the bosses themselves have absurd powers as well that you need to counter somehow. It’s difficult to predict what bosses will come and when, but your goal at the end is to survive all the way through the run. It’s a lot of fun to try and compete this way. I have the card back for completing the original dungeon run in Kobolds & Catacombs with all 9 classes, which is something I cherish and will likely never take off. It’s one of those accomplishments that not everyone has, so you feel special for having earned it against the odds. I’m glad they’re still coming out with these modes, even though people may seem them as being stale.

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#169: The Hare

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Woahhh, we’re halfway there! Giant plushy hare! Take my hand, and we’ll make it I swear.

Today, I’ll be talking about the eponymous plushy hare that I got from Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp. Yes, I know, another post about pocket camp, but at least it’s not about Magic: the Gathering, right? I’ve had enough of those in a row lately, so it’s time to shake things up.

So, recently, there was another gyroidite-collecting event in the game, which means you have to walk around the different venue spots, collect as many little gyroidite blobs as you can, and turn them in for items that help you acquire leaf tickets and more. This time, though, in celebration of Easter and general springtime, Zipper arrived and we collected little eggs instead of gyroidite. It was appropriate, given the context and setting, for them to offer eggs, like it was some kind of egg hunt. Zipper, the animal dressed as a large bunny who refuses to admit that he’s just an animal playing dress up, offers a huge plushy version of himself for you to put in your campsite.

When you collect 600 eggs, you can craft the eponymous giant plushy hare, the one massive mega item offered by this event. It takes a long time to get 600 eggs, as it’s no easy task to just walk around and collect eggs for hours on end. Well, it might be easy, but it’s definitely a bit boring. When you eventually get to the end of the mountain, though, it feels great to plop your giant hare in your campsite as a signal of your accomplishment. You will always be known as the one who managed to scavenge up 600 eggs in under a week or so. It’s a badge of honor for a job well done. And I did it! Sorry, Alex.

#167: The Easter Holiday

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What a weekend, am I right? This past weekend was one for the history books, with a combination of Dungeons & Dragons, Monster of the Week, Telestrations, Heroes of the Storm, Magic: the Gathering, and much more played between groups of friends and family during the past couple days. It brings me so much joy to see people come together and enjoy the small things together.

Easter is that time of the year when I start to feel like the year is fully in swing. The stride hits around June or July, but right about now, as I enter the last leg of the school year, I definitely feel that 2019 has arrived. In a sense, I’m relieved because we’re one step closer to the next presidential election, and everyone knows how important that’s going to be. But on the other hand, I’m not so relieved because I feel old, like my early 20s weren’t very much.

We used to have larger family gatherings involving Easter, and all the other Christian holidays, but nowadays our Easters are just at home with a small group of close family around the table. We eat, drink, and feel merry with each other. There aren’t any more Easter baskets from the bunny to expect when we arrive home; instead, there are dishes we love and people we don’t get to see often. A different kind of present, offered only during the holidays.

This Easter, I sat around the dinner table with Alex and family and we talked about my (relatively) new job, my nieces, and Alex’s job. We tend to talk about Alex’s job and commute a lot whenever we’re together. Also, getting engaged was brought up by both sets of parents, which Alex and I both know is something we’ve heard a lot about.

#165: The Legion

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Originally, I was going to write about the Boros Legion, the overzealous crusading guild in Ravnica, but then I realized I could also write about the legion in another respect: the Burning Legion in World of Warcraft. There are so many legions! Legions upon legions to discuss.

The Burning Legion in World of Warcraft were the central antagonists of the second most recent expansion, World of Warcraft: Legion. They’re an endlessly respawning army of demonic forces, and they are practically unstoppable. The conflict in this expansion is that they were invading our home world again, and this time they were hell-bent on annihilation. This expansion solidified WoW as an absolute titan of the gaming industry and allowed them to reclaim some of their old glory. Legion propelled subscriber numbers and boosted player interest and hype, with the introduction of the Broken Isles, legendaries, artifacts, and the exclusively max-level Suramar questing experience (which, if you read my blog regularly, I wrote about a few weeks ago). Legion revitalized my interest in WoW and got me hooked again for practically the entire length of the expansion, minus a few spots. I remember focusing super heavily on completing the mage tower challenges at the end of the expansion, trying my best to unlock the hidden and exclusive artifact appearances before they went away for good.

The Boros Legion is interesting because they’re primarily “good” guys. I bought the Boros guild pack recently, and it’s absolutely crushed all the other decks when it curves well. I’ve enjoyed playing with it a lot. The idea of playing a “white weenies” deck (strong, small white-colored creature cards with exceptional synergy between each other) has always been fun for me, and I like blasting people’s faces in with flying angels. Thankfully, that’s what the Boros are all about: ruthless aggression and flying assaults.

#158: The Fortune Cookie

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I love fortune cookies. They have a plain texture, crunchy taste, and are free with any Chinese takeout meal. What’s not to love?

No, in reality I’ll be discussing fortune cookies as they appear in Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, as I recently opened one and got an exceptionally rare item. I felt pretty good afterwards, which is what happens when the odds end up in your favor when they often don’t. There’s a 3% chance of finding a 5-star item in a fortune cookie, which means you have to open roughly 33 cookies to have a chance of getting the item everyone really wants. It’s a bit absurd, especially considering how few fortune cookies are available regularly in the game. They don’t come easily; you have to check the shop at least once a day at 11am to see if the rare ones are here, and more often than not they are missing.

Fortune cookies are the Animal Crossing equivalent of loot boxes, a system put into video games to allow people to buy a randomized box of cosmetic items for a price. The price, of course, is in dollars not in game currency. The loot box system originates from Overwatch, a game I’ve spoken about on this blog. There’s a lot of controversy involving loot boxes because they are seen as a form of gambling; you pay money for a random chance at receiving what you want. Nothing is guaranteed, so it’s not like you’re spending money directly on the item you’re looking for, instead you’re spending money on a chance at getting that item. Hence the gambling issue.

I do think that games are exploitative and predatory when it comes to loot boxes, and I wish they would tone it down. Fortune cookies aren’t super bad, because you can just ignore the items, but in other games, the items available from loot boxes are really, really important. Hence all the frustration, which i totally empathize with.

#153: The Guild

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When I first started playing World of Warcraft, years and years and years ago, I met some friends online who had just started playing, too. We quickly became friends and bonded over our immaturity, youth, and playful attitudes. It’s so easy to find like-minded individuals online when your entire personality is shaped by your online presence and what you find on the Internet. Our guild, called “R A W R” (because we were kids who liked memes and cats on the Internet), meant a lot to me, and our regular conversations in guild chat set the standard for what I would come to expect from sociable, inviting guilds. We would set up raids of Alliance cities, and have regular hang-outs in secret alcoves on the world map that no one knew about except us (or so we thought). We discussed guild matters, like who deserved a rank promotion and, more likely, who was being annoying on a particular day. There was drama, of course, as there is in any guild, but we persevered through it. Our guild’s downfall came not because of any drama or anything like that, but because we all, gradually and slowly, stopped playing the same game as each other. I remember quitting at one point and roping in my guild friends to come play other computer games with me, but that never lasted very long. I think one was a browser game, with blue fish and matching cards. That’s all I remember from it.

Some of my friends who used to play still come on every once in awhile, though not as often any more. It’s not the same as it used to be; even if we were to try to recapture that old magic, it’s past that time in our lives. And I think we all recognize that, which is why we don’t talk as much as we used to.

#119: Pocket Camp

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How have I gone a hundred and nineteen posts without talking about Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp? I know I just made a post about video games, and I don’t like to inundate my posts with video game info, but this is the first idea that came to my mind. Pocket camp is a daily fixation for us, so I think it’s important to talk about on my daily blog! It just works.

Alex and I have played pocket camp since November of 2017, and it’s been a consistent joy for us ever since. It’s a camp, but in your pocket (on the phone)! I always have my phone with me, so I can always play whenever I need to fulfill my animal requests. It’s available all the time for catching fish and bugs, harvesting fruit and flowers, and talking with animal friends. The campsite (and cabin) is always available for decorating and updating with modern options, and the developers are constantly adding new furniture to the game to spice things up. The fortune cookies allow for unique designs to make their way into the game, and the animals sometimes give you furniture to decorate with too. Alex and I are both super high levels, have tons of campsite items, and have unlocked pretty much every amenity and animal available. It’s awesome to look back at where we started and where we are now. The improvements added to the game in the time since we started have been numerous and game-changing, also. The cabin, the happy home mansion, the fortune cookie shop, Gulliver, Pete, treasure maps, snacks, the garden, and more? I can’t even imagine starting this mobile game for the first time now, with so much to learn about and so much to explore. My sister Bella also plays pocket camp, and is helplessly addicted to it with us. We bond over our mutual conquests in the realm of pocket camp.

#118: The New Raid

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(This is the first picture that shows up in the free picture search engine for “raid,” for some reason.)

Jimmy and I both agree, the newest raid added to World of Warcraft in patch 8.1, Battle of Dazar’alor, has been a smash hit. It’s a wild ride from start to finish, representing perfectly what an actual, all-out war between two juggernaut super-factions would look like, rendered into the game’s modest engine. There are hefty stakes at play from both sides; consider the targeted assassination of the Zandalari king, and the reckless defense and heated chase through the waters to hunt down Jaina Proudmoore. Amidst all the high stakes is heightened tensions between the two factions after the battle climaxes. No one inevitably dies, except for the king, which leads to the events of the war campaign and allied race acquisition in 8.1.5. This is all just about the raid’s story, touching nothing on the bosses, mechanics, aesthetics, and more. But it’s impossible to separate this raid from the overarching story, as it is a climactic moment in the tale so far.

My favorite boss I’ve faced so far has been Opulence, wherein the raid splits in two and follows treasure golems through cavernous paths lined with booby traps and flame engines. But if you make it to the last room, powerful gems await that can empower your character, allowing them to finish the golems and enter the second phase of the encounter, wherein you face the massive treasure elemental, Opulence. It’s a ridiculous fight, and I loved being able to experience it firsthand in LFR and Normal difficulties. Hopefully, with my gear level increasing so fast, I have the opportunity to raid on Heroic sometime soon. That might be too much stress though, and we already know I’ve talked enough about stress recently!

#102: The MOBA

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MOBA stands for multiplayer online battle arena. It’s a genre of video game, typically played on computers, with its most popular entry being League of Legends, probably the most popular game in the world right now. League has had that title for well over the past few years, leading into 2012 most likely. MOBAs feature chosen heroes or champions battling it out on a map with repeatable, respawnable minions or creeps sieging the opposing team’s fortress. The goal is to completely take down the other team’s fortress, ultimately laying siege to their core, the most important structure in their fortress. If the core goes down, so to does the team. These are all features that pretty much all MOBAs share, regardless of who’s playing them or what game is being played.

Now, the reason I’ll be discussing MOBAs today is because of a certain game within the genre that’s of particular importance to myself and my friends. This game is called Heroes of the Storm, known as the third most popular MOBA on the market, behind both League and Dota 2. Heroes is a fantastic game with lots of gameplay diversity and options, despite its lower popularity. Characters like The Lost Vikings offer micro-based experiences, while newer characters like Imperius and Blaze are heavyweight, front line bruisers who tank damage and dish it out as well. They tend to be some of my favorite to play when I join a team with friends. The game itself allows me to play how I want to play by choosing my hero in advance, through the game’s quick match mode.

In continuing the trend of talking about my sleepover experiences, Heroes comes to mind because it’s frequently one of the best options we have. Being a team of three players usually, we have enough team chemistry and cooperative skills to win most of our games. And we do, and winning is pretty fun! Late at night, after some time spent horsing around on other games and devices, we end up on Heroes as a way to pass the time before bed. I can’t separate my appreciation for this game from its usual place in our sleepover schedule, as it fills such a hole in our time. Games usually go about 20 minutes or so, which is short enough for us to spam games, gain experience for each of our heroes, and win in glorious fashion. The games are much shorter than the average League or Dota game, which I’ve learned to appreciate as a way for me to not have to commit super hard to a game when I press the queue button. I know that, even if the game sucks and we lose, it only goes about fifteen minutes so I shouldn’t be too bothered by it.

#92: The Tournament

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Apologies in advance if this comes off as super confusing to anyone unfamiliar with Smash Bros. I’ll be talking about a video game I’m super interested in, and how it felt watching it over this past weekend. I know I talk about video games a lot, but they’re important to me!

So, instead of watching the Super Bowl this weekend, Alex and I decided to try something different: we watched, on our brand-spanking new 4k TV, a super major Smash Bros tournament, featuring both Melee and Ultimate competitors. The Melee tournament went late and lasted about three to four hours, about the same time as the big game itself, and we were able to watch a jigglypuff player take the entire tournament by the end. Alex was cheering for him, while I was cheering for the Yoshi and Shiek mostly. It was interesting to watch two characters I was pretty unfamiliar with take it to the grand finals against each other. That’s always an exciting twist.

Also, over 2.1 thousand people entered the Ultimate tournament, and it was ultimately won by MKLeo, a Mexican player and prodigy who plays primarily Lucina, Ike, and Cloud. Alex and I watched it together pretty much throughout the weekend, from top 64 all the way through to the top 8. It was exciting, thrilling, and worthwhile for us to watch. The tournament was called Genesis 6, considered by many to be the beginning of the Smash Bros competitive season for the year, and the apex of smash bros tournaments. That can only mean that more weekends will be filled with more streams in the future.

Also, considering the super bowl turned out to be pretty boring for many, I may have made the better decision to watch this instead! It is, after all, the pinnacle of competitive smash. I was excited to get the chance to watch the best in the world face off against each other. Here’s hoping there’s more to come, and I bet there is!