Joe Abbott's Weblog

Letters home to mom

  • Flickr Photos

  • A pic that came out

    Just a nice pic
  • Holiday snap

  • Advertisements
  • Stuff posted on these days

    March 2018
    M T W T F S S
    « Feb    
  • Meta

  • Joe Abbott Musings

  • RSS Cat Cartoon w/o the Cartoon

    • Coda
      Posting these cat-cartoons-without-the-cartoon was a long journey that I don’t know if I’ll repeat soon again. A daily blog is tough … even when you have your material handed to you! But, I couldn’t have done it without the artwork … Continue reading →
    • December 31, 2011
      Father Time is riding out his last few minutes of being the temporal keeper for 2011; he sits in an easy chair with a calendar showing “Dec 31” behind him and a grandfather clock pointing to the time of 11:53. … Continue reading →
    • December 30, 2011
      A happy young lady shares a table at a tony restaurant with her cat; they both wear festive, cone-shaped party hats. The woman gaily says to the tuxedoed server, “One martini and one glass of milk.” The cat does not … Continue reading →

Archive for the ‘Gaming’ Category

Lotta gaming

Posted by joeabbott on January 13, 2018

I’m always amused when watching a sporting event on television and hearing the color commentary from various pundits as they cite stats, figures, and data about the plays, players, and teams that seem bizarrely obtuse: most yards by a player from a PAC10 school when running out of the I-formation and things like that. Well, it seems gaming isn’t far behind in that sort of statistics adoration and it’s impacting me! I recently received mail from a gaming site I subscribe to that shared my 2017 stats … here’s how I placed in some of their categories:

Box art1st in the Open World + Role Playing Completed Games Leaderboard for Washington

1st in the Role Playing + Action-RPG Completed Games Leaderboard for Washington

1st in the Role Playing + Action-RPG GamerScore Leaderboard for Washington

1st in the Xbox One Role Playing + Action-RPG Completed Games Leaderboard for Washington

1st in the Xbox One Role Playing + Action-RPG GamerScore Leaderboard for Washington

1st in the Role Playing Completed Games Leaderboard for Washington

1st in the Xbox One Role Playing Completed Games Leaderboard for Washington

top 10 in the Xbox One Role Playing + Action-RPG Completed Games Leaderboard for The USA

top 20 in the Role Playing + Action-RPG Completed Games Leaderboard for The USA

top 20 in the Xbox One Role Playing Completed Games Leaderboard for The USA

top 50 in the Open World + Role Playing Completed Games Leaderboard for The USA

top 50 in the Role Playing + Action-RPG Completed Games Leaderboard

top 50 in the Role Playing Completed Games Leaderboard for The USA

top 50 in the Xbox One Role Playing + Action-RPG Completed Games Leaderboard

top 100 in the Role Playing Completed Games Leaderboard

top 100 in the Xbox One Role Playing Completed Games Leaderboard

top 200 in the Open World + Role Playing Completed Games Leaderboard

top 500 in the Role Playing + Action-RPG GamerScore Leaderboard

top 500 in the Role Playing GamerScore Leaderboard

top 500 in the Xbox One Role Playing + Action-RPG GamerScore Leaderboard

top 500 in the Xbox One Role Playing GamerScore Leaderboard

Seeing that I was first in any category was like, WOW, and then you need to look at how much the category is specialized … a specific game category for the state I live in. OK, not bad, but pales when you look for how I did without some of the qualifiers. Still, I’m happy to have a little gaming fame, even considering the specialized notes.

Here’s to gaming … and, mostly to RPG gaming in Washington state!


Posted in Gaming | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Why I like video games

Posted by joeabbott on January 1, 2018

I like computer games in a similar way to liking science fiction and fantasy novels: to take me away, open my imagination to new worlds, and ultimately tell me a story. While video games are different than written works … much as they’re different from movies\television, board games, or theater … they impart to me the same sense of adventure and discovery. While video games “color in” far more details than books, magazines or even comics and “illustrated novels” do, they also allow for discovery and experience in ways that books simply can’t. It doesn’t make one imageentertainment device (that is, books or video games) better than another, it makes them different.

I like gaming for the experiences I get to play out. Here are three video games I recently played and some of the adventures I enjoyed while completing them. All of these are first person action games along the RPG genre, meaning you interact with the world as if you’re seeing it through your eyes and for each notable accomplishment (quests completed, puzzles solved, etc.) you receive “experience” (XP) allowing you to improve abilities at various levels (leveling up).

An example of this “leveling up” might be if I need 1000 XP for the next level: I might get 300 XP for retrieving an item for another character in the game, get another 200 XP for defeating notable enemies, say 100 XP for discovering new locations in the world, and a final 400 XP for defeating a “boss” (which is a unique and challenging enemy) … and now I have hit that new level. For hitting the next level I can choose a “perk”, which might be an ability to make in-game puzzles easier to solve, make combat against enemies easier, or provide my character with a new ability or tool.

While the three games noted below share gameplay similarities, the worlds in which they occur are vastly different. Come along and see a few reasons why I like video games.

Assassin’s Creed Origins

The background story to this game pits two groups of people: the Templars who are trying to take over the world through the combined use of corporate power and alien technology (work with me here, will ya?) and opposing them are the Assassin’s. The Assassin’s Creed franchise has spawned many games, each situated during a different time period and the Origins game tells of the start of the Assassin’s guild way back in 45 BCE or so. You play as Bayak, a medjay (a pharaonic bodyguard) who became embroiled with the Templars when they killed his son, and as your revenge quest leads you further and further into the ranks of the Templars, you establish the Assassins to counter them.image

OK, heavy stuff. Me, I just loved running about Egypt in the same way I loved my first few trips to New York City: you couldn’t turn a corner without seeing something for yourself that you’d heard of since childhood. There were Alexandria, the Nile, Memphis, deserts and oases; the Library and Lighthouse of Alexandria were imagined, along with the Sphinx and Great Pyramids. All is rendered in as realistic detail as possible using current scientific methods to uncover this time period. You see benign details like outposts for tanning animal skins, salt works, and even mines for natron, the salt used in the mummification process. You also see temples and priests, luxury barges plying the Nile, and the opulent palace grounds of the elite.

ImageThe game is even releasing a mode allowing you to explore the areas as a learning tool (not a game) and to “tour” this time period in ancient Egypt.

Did I say I liked running around? Well, that was an option but so was riding on horseback, on camel, or commandeering a reed boat and rafting the lakes and rivers. I can recall my surprise and delight when, in game, I ran up to a papyrus boat, hopped on, and seamlessly started commanding the vessel. Also, as part of the game you’re allowed to see the territory through the eyes of an eagle, giving you a unique vantage to the wonderful surroundings.

But, it’s a game with the word “assassin” in the title so as much as I talk about exploring this wonderfully rendered world, I spent a fair amount of time sniping ferocious beasts with my bow, shivving guards and military men with my assassin’s blade, and outright whacking grave robbers apart with a number of deadly weapons. The game also allows you to sneak undetected through the shadows, but that only goes so far when you’ve infiltrated a military camp to free innocent villagers and the guards are thick as thieves throughout the grounds.

I very much enjoyed that this game was balanced such that it’s encouraged you take a stealth approach, and do all your killing and looting without being seen. Many quests give extra bonus if you can complete them without raising an alarm. That doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be killing the enemy … you just can’t be seen by someone else while you do it.

Far Cry Primal

imageAnd from “ancient” Egypt we go to really ancient Central Europe around 10,000 BCE! In Far Cry Primal you play as a cave man from the peaceful Wenja tribe name Takkar, who has a gift of being able to tame animals, with his skills growing throughout the game from taming owls and wolves to powerful saber-toothed tigers and cave bear. In the story, two other rival factions are busy enslaving the peace-loving Wenja and it’s up to Takkar to unite the people and stop the assaults on his tribe.

Like the Assassin’s Creed franchise, Far Cry has several offerings but Primal is unique in that it trades the gun-play of the modern Far Cry setting for spear-chucking, club swinging, and bow-and-arrow gameplay. Primal is also similar in that stealth and sneaking is strongly encouraged but to a lesser degree. While it’s possible to complete some objectives using stealth techniques, the main use seems to be to single out a victim so they can be killed off in a fashion at your great advantage.

In this game I didn’t revel in the time period authenticity of setting or tools and garb. It’s a purely fictional world in which I was able to tame a saber-tooth tiger and ride him to battle, I could have my pet owl drop bombs causing enemies to fight their allies, and use a rope and claw tool to scale truly prodigious cliffs … even tossing the claw to a higher point while in the middle of the climb. But the lack of realism certainly didn’t stop me from enjoying the game.

I started out in a small corner of the map, a sole survivor from a hunting expedition gone wrong, and slowly bring more and more people to my camp. I save one or two from an enemy raid as they were being taken prisoner, I lead a small group of three to a safer camp some distance away (protecting them along the way), and I add my arsenal of weapons and techniques to stop an attack on another small group of Wenja. And all of these two and three and four caveman parties join my tribe until, by end-game, my clan had over 300 members. And, by branching out to find resources to build up my camp, to find new animals to tame, or doing the little quests to help my tribesmen, I expand the map.


In the end my Takkar gains many skills, slowly takes back territory from the invading tribes, unites his clan, and ultimately faces off and vanquishes the two enemy leaders. I let fly a lot of arrows, was a big fan of the devastating spear, and became handy with a club in those close-up fights but mostly enjoyed the game for the novelty of the setting, fantastical though it was.

Fallout 4

After looking to the ancient past in the last two games, we come to Fallout 4, set in 2287, 210 years after a nuclear war has destroyed most of the world; you are the Sole Survivor from Vault 111 where you were cryogenically frozen as you waited out the nuclear holocaust and worst of the subsequent fallout. Pretty somber stuff and yet as you wander the wasteland you can still find a tasty Nuka Cola beverage, imagestroll through Diamond City (a settlement built in Fenway Park … get it? “Diamond” as in “baseball diamond”?), and buy some Fancy Lad snack cakes from both zombie and robot salesmen. The game reaches for absurdist humor while mixing in lethal doses of radiation poisoning, raider enslavement, and attack by feral packs of dogs, huge glowing radscorpions, or the human engineered mutants (imagine smaller … but only slightly smaller … versions of the Incredible Hulk).

Set in post-apocalyptic Boston, the game is absolutely massive: cited as having over 111,000 recorded lines of dialogue, more than 300 locations to visit and explore, and 42 settlements either existing or waiting on you to settle, Fallout 4 is so big it’s understandable you have multiple ways to play. There’s the main story, which involves you on a quest to find out what happened to your baby son you were frozen with; myriad smaller quests ranging from giving an NPC some resource to retaking a settlement from a raider gang and establishing your own homestead; or you can go into detail on building up a settlement, including shops, establishing power systems and clean water, recruiting a number of residents and setting up supply routes. Fallout 4 is in a large part about exploration and allowing you to do what you want, when and where you want to do it.

And yet at the core it’s a shooting game where you are set against a number of enemies and shoot, slash, club, or otherwise kill them. There’s a violence to this game that’s equal amounts shocking and commonplace; the graphics of some of the kills are just that, graphic, but the ubiquity and regularity of this sort of thing inures players to any sort of surprise. While the other two games listed here allowed differing degrees of stealth and combat avoidance, Fallout 4 takes the player straight into conflict and the bloodier, the better. One perk players can choose as they level up is Bloody Mess, a little something that says, “+5% bonus damage means enemies will sometimes explode into a gory red paste. Watch out for flying eyeballs!” So much for subtlety.


The hook for me in this game is elusive. I loved the ability to create my own settlement. I started building out a massive complex at one location and I populated that site with some 20+ other NPCs … and then they started messing with my stuff! So much so that I setup a new location with zero other inhabitants and kept it that way, allowing me to setup a Power Armor suit without some NPC hopping into it and walking around, or sleeping in the bed in my master suite. The hard part is that I never spent the time needed to get really good at setting up a settlement for it to look good, so even my best command centers looked like hovels.

Oddly, I also started caring about the settlements I established.

One of the DLCs in this game had the Sole Survivor taking over raider gangs and claiming settlement areas throughout the map. When I completed this DLC I had completed the game, getting every achievement possible and, for me, this is the main reason I play most games. So Fallout 4 was over. But here it is, days after finishing the game and I want to go back … now that I have all the achievements I can do whatever I want and I want to retake those settlements from the raiders! I usually play as the “good guy” so playing as a raider boss is unnatural and against my usual style. I’m torn … I’m done with the game but it captured my attention so much that I want to go back and “make things right” for the NPCs.

It’s a pretty good game that can do that.


imageSo that’s it, those are some of my recent experiences with video games and why I like them. They let me go places and explore worlds, both real and fantastical; they show me an imagined world that has never and likely will never exist; and they let me do things I’d never otherwise be able to do, whether that’s sliding down a pyramid in Giza, riding a mammoth as it tramples enemy hunters, or launch a handheld nuclear bomb at a giant mutant. Some of these video games are a crazy wild ride.

I suppose I could\should touch on the fact that I’ve killed so many enemies in these games to be labeled a psychopath of enormous proportions, but in real life I still pet my cats, treat our chickens with dignity, and hold doors at the supermarket for both old and young. I believe any healthy intellect playing video games will understand those boundaries and be able to move to and fro without overt behavioral changes. But this is a discussion far beyond the reach of this post.

I like video games, play a lot, and these are some of my reasons; thanks for sharing my experiences on three of my latest games.

Posted in Gaming | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Time to geek out … year end gaming stats

Posted by joeabbott on December 16, 2017

I game a lot, perhaps too much, but it never hits home more than when I see my EOY stats from the Xbox folks. Essentially they take a half-dozen stats, display them on a cool dashboard-like page, and let you pore over them to whatever end. Summed up: I spent the equivalent of a half-job playing games. If the average worker spends 2088 hours or so at work, I put in just over 1000 hours gaming. Sad if that sorta stat makes you sad … AWESOME if you love gaming!

I’m in the latter camp.


Given how much I played Dark Souls, I’m actually pretty surprised to see Mass Effect at the top of games I played … but I do notice I spread my Dark Souls playing across three of the titles so maybe that diluted things in the gaming stats … or inflate them in my mind.

There’s a second set of stats “below the fold” … here’s how mine look:


So, yeah, where the average person in my region plays just over 200 hours of games a year, I’m playing 5x that amount. In short … I have very few real life friends and spend a whole lotta time playing games. Guilty as charged!

Although, I rarely play games with other friends, enjoying mostly those games that allow me to explore a world and discover cool things. My recent three most-played games are: Fallout 4, Far Cry: Primal, and Assassin’s Creed: Origins. All are RPG games that put you in a huge world and allow you to explore as you wish. I really love those sort of games.

So what now? Well, the above stat shows me at 145,728GS … but those stats were through end of October; I’m currently at 147,833GS. I plan on trying to crack 150k GS by the end of year … two weeks. I have a number of quick and easy games in the wings that I’ll jump on, so that shouldn’t be a problem. But, I’d also like to do more than just sit around playing games during my time off. I’ll keep you in the loop.

Thanks for dropping in and seeing what I’m up to; hopefully I’ll be able to share a few more escapades of life with Suzy that aren’t about gaming!

Posted in Gaming | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

You can meet the nicest people

Posted by joeabbott on November 20, 2017

ProjectScorpioThe Internet is full of folks you wouldn’t want at your dinner table but also a lot of really great people, too. I enjoy gaming so I bump into the former quite often but here’s a little story about the other sort of folks you meet.

As I said, I game a bunch and so I was excited with the announcement of the Xbox One X; a new gaming console that will boast some beefy performance and impressive native 4k HDR graphics support. The codename for the console was Project Scorpio and, one of the neat hidden “secrets” of the program was the inclusion of the Master Chief (from the Halo game) character riding a scorpion printed onto the motherboard. A geeky bit of fun that would tickle insiders.

The image to the right is a snip of a picture of the motherboard.

Sometime in November, a gaming enthusiast on Twitter going by the tag @Xbudz posted a pic of his own handiwork:


It looked so cool that I reached out to him and asked if he could share the artwork with me. I was merely hoping he’d send me an image file over email but he snail-mailed me three of these decals!! No mention of a charge or anything! It was super-nice. I talked to him a bit through Xbox One messaging and he said he just loves gaming and was happy to share his artwork.

The three images came in gold, brushed chrome, and pure black. And, to share the wealth, I gave one each to a couple other of my buddies and then put mine on my laptop! You can see my laptop (left) and my buddy’s laptop (right) showing off the #ScorpioChief stickers

     image     image

Since then, I’ve reached out to Xbudz and have added him to my Xbox One friend list.

So, the Internet is full of trolls and people who will say horrible things because they can but it’s also full of folks who are generous with their time and talents and I’ve met one. Hope your journeys on the Internet find you bumping into folks like Xbudz, because it’s just really fun when things like that happen.

Posted in Gaming | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Dark Souls dominance

Posted by joeabbott on April 2, 2017

I’ve been infatuated by a game called Dark Souls for a while now; in late 2014 I mentioned in this blog that I had “dipped my toes” into it. Well, it’s been two and a half years and a full-on immersion but it’s now completed, by achievement standards. This morning I picked up my last achievement in the last Dark Souls game than I had yet to complete … my quest is over. Sort of.


I say “sort of” because I completed Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin this morning but I hadn’t completed the play-through … and so I’m left without beating the final boss and in this weird situation of not having complete closure. Additionally, in the last couple of days I’ve found a co-op partner who is a pretty cool guy and doesn’t have the same quirks as some of the other players I’ve met online … and it’d be fun to play more Souls with him.

So, I think I’ll be playing more but my obsession to “complete” the series is over, and I can start to dip into my game library for other distractions.

I was late to the Dark Souls party by playing the original game some three years after it came out. I made a longish write-up about the game here (Dec 2015) just a month after I picked it up; it grabbed me almost instantly. Within a couple months I had beaten it (not “completed” … I didn’t complete the game [get all achievements] until August of 2016) and finished my second run-through in early 2016 (Feb 2016).

By that time I had tried Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin but it just didn’t sit well with me; the game was harder and just felt unfair … where fairness was a hallmark of the original game. The original was hard, yes; but with patience it was a challenge you could overcome. But, Dark Souls 3 had also just released and so I jumped onto that train (April 2016), a full-on fan-boy of the series by this time.

But, again, the challenges were a bit too challenging and so I turned back to the original Dark Souls game and tried my hand at a Soul Level 1 run: completing the game while never leveling up; which makes all of the challenges, well … challenging (to say the least). I finished that in May 2016, so I made quick work of it and then turned my attention to completing the original Dark Souls … but after that was done, it was back to Dark Souls 3. With help from online friends, I completed that game in early 2017 (January 2017) and then jumped full-force into Dark Souls 2.

Dark Souls 2 had an original release on the Xbox 360 but it was a polarizing release: the level design and enemy placement wasn’t as exquisite as the original Dark Souls and some felt the tweaks made to the game made it harder and removed some of the fun. After releasing several DLC add-ons, the game was rereleased on the Xbox One with all extended content as Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin. Additionally, the game designers tweaked some of the enemy placement, making what purist thought was a much better game but they also making it harder by just adding a lot more enemies to each area.

With Dark Souls 2 (on Xbox 360) perceived as easier, I tried that version. Well, time hasn’t held up well for Xbox 360 games: the visuals were muddy, the gameplay stilted, and overall it was a chore to complete. But, after going through that, getting back onto the Scholar of the First Sin edition on the Xbox One felt amazing. The textures in the game felt better (in most places), the character moved well, and the increased frame rate helped everything feel crisp. And, with understanding the general map layout, I was quickly able to feel at home in this version and complete the game.

And that’s it. I feel the pull to complete my current play-through of Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin, I feel compelled to try the original one more time, and I want to enjoy some co-op with new friends who are also fans of the series. Fortunately, I can probably do all of these things but mostly I can be happy to have completed a good challenge in a fun game.

Thanks for stopping by and listening to me blather about gaming. Hope your diversions keep you as engaged!

Posted in Gaming | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Love me some gaming!

Posted by joeabbott on March 5, 2017

imageWhile I enjoy gaming, the image to the right from a site I follow (that tracks my gaming activity) tells the tale: I spent the entire month of February playing just two games. And for someone with a game library of literally hundreds of games, this is something.

More telling is the two games I played: on the Xbox 360 it was a game called Dark Souls II; on the Xbox One it was Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin. Which is to say, I played the same game (slightly different versions) on two different consoles.

I clearly am enjoying Dark Souls 2!!


And, yes, yes I am.

I’ve played all of the Dark Souls games and I have 100% completion (meaning, I’ve acquired all the achievements) in both Dark Souls (the original game) and Dark Souls 3 (the final installment). I glossed over Dark Souls 2, finding the game wanting: on the Xbox 360 the gameplay seemed stilted and the changes to the game were off-putting; on the Xbox One I found the changes they made to the game layout difficult and annoying. But, after completing Dark Souls 3 and absolutely loving it, I revisited Dark Souls 2 on the Xbox 360, found that I could enjoy it … and enjoyed it enough to complete it on that platform.

So now you may ask, why would I play the same game … a game I had to complete almost three times on the Xbox 360 … on the Xbox One? Couple reason …

First, the 60fps (frames per second) make the game buttery smooth; and after playing it on the Xbox 360, it’s a joy. You character moves and reacts better, the visuals are more interesting, and it feels like a whole new game. Next, they’ve built the add-on content into the game; something I haven’t played on the Xbox 360, so there is new content. And finally, on my “achievement wall” I have 100% completions in all of the Dark Souls games except this version … and I think it’d be a nice bragging right to have completion in all Dark Souls games. So I’ll continue on.

There are still aspects I dislike but it’s a great challenge in a great world.

And that’s what I’m doing with my gaming time these days. I’m interspersing a few other titles I have. As I mentioned, I have a lot of games and it’s a little sad to have a game but not enjoy it. So, I’m going to put playing a new game first each time I sit down to do any gaming but, in the bits and pieces of time I find here and there, I’ll get in a little more Dark Souls … until I beat Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin.

Stay tuned … I’m bound to crow about it here when I’m done!

Posted in Gaming | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Heck yeah–I did it!

Posted by joeabbott on January 21, 2017

imageIf you follow here (or just bumped into this post) and aren’t into video games, this post may not be for you.

I completed Dark Souls 3 last night and, as an adult man in my mid-50s, still found myself doing a happy dance around the room. The game released last April and I played it for about ten days before putting it down until late October when I picked it up again for a week before holding off until late in November … and, for whatever reason since then, it has been a near-daily obsession to get on and progress a bit against my goal of completing the game. I’ve played the equivalent of 12 days, 8 hours, and 2 minutes … and I can feel the pull to get back in.

Along the way an interesting change happened; and maybe this was the change late in November that caused me to obsess over the game: I started co-oping a lot more. I recall mentioning to Suzy that I was going to “get online and see if anyone needed help” a couple times; and, for a guy who previously didn’t care if he was on the Internet or not while gaming, this was a big change.

I still hate being invaded, as that really breaks the flow of the game for me, but I found myself putting down “my sign”, waiting to be summoned, and perusing the Dark Souls chat boards to see if anyone was asking or offering help. My friend list has expanded and, because I was making a completionist run, found myself with lots of extra valuable gear I could give to other people. One day a fellow posted on the public board that someone didn’t make good on a trade and cheated him. He was warning us against the other player but I contacted the poster, asked what he lost, and then met up with him to give him the set of armor he was shorted … I had an extra and didn’t need it. And, without being asked, he then gave me a couple valuable weapons that were fully upgraded and I ended up using one of them in my final boss fight! It’s a fun community and the people in it really helped me along the way.

But, this post is mostly a bragging piece to say, “I did it”. Yup, lots of other folks have done it but I did it.


I’m not sure what’s next. Yes, as I noted above, I feel the pull of the game saying, “come on back in and enjoy some jolly cooperation!”, but I think I’m mostly done. There are a few folks who have helped me along the way who indicated they’d be calling, so I’ll get on for that, and I still have the DLC to complete at my current level … but I’ve already played it through twice. So, there may not be all that much left for me. We’ll see.

I have a list of games as long as my arm to get in (or get back to), try, and enjoy, but I also know, along with my 100% completion on Dark Souls 3, I have a 100% completion in the original Dark Souls … but, in the middle chapter, Dark Souls 2, I only have 80 of the 1000 Gamerscore … so that may be my next objective. Again, we’ll see.

Dark Souls has been a glorious interest and obsession. I’ve always loved the lore, the gameplay, and the world the creators have made, and now I’m finding new things to love in the community around the game. Today I believe I’ll just bask in the glory of accomplishment and stay off video games. I have a few errands to run and a shop that’s over-cold, not just from the January weather, but the lack of my attention. So, while I’m driving or puttering around today, I’m sure I’ll be in a good mood as I continue my mental happy dance and repeat the words: I did it.

Posted in Gaming | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »


Posted by joeabbott on January 16, 2017

I can now erase the game Roblox from my Xbox hard drive. I finally completed this achievement:


In early December I saw a friend get an achievement in this game for something like hundreds of points, and so I started playing the game with the intent to “complete” it. And by “complete” it, I mean get all the achievements.

The game has a bunch of simple achievements but the one noted above requires playing it for almost three weeks, every day. That’s the bad news; the good news is that by “playing it”, you just have to log into the game. The worse news is that the game just isn’t fun. And, like a sweeping statement about any game, that comment requires a little clarification: it’s not fun for me.

Roblox is a game that allows people to create other games to share. It’s like a simple game-development kit.You log into the “shell” or base game, choose the entertainment or distraction you want to enjoy, and then play that. Most games look the same but people have done surprisingly creative stuff with it. I’ve played “hide and seek” games, “avoid the dragon” games, and “build a fort” games. In all of them your avatar has a simple health meter and the ability to wander a Minecraft-like landscape. There are some truly novel games out there, too: a “walk into a clothing dryer” game and another “take an elevator to a bunch of strange floors in a building” game.

None of them really grab my attention.

And so, playing a game that you don’t enjoy and needing to do it 20-days running: painful.

During the first 20-days of December, I loaded it faithfully, however on about 12/18 I loaded it at 6PM, rather than around 7AM, like I usually do. I found that the game tracks time by converting to GMT and so that puts me about eight-hours behind that clock … meaning converting 7AM to GMT is about 3PM, and converting 6PM to GMT puts it the next day at 2AM. And so I legitimately missed that block of time.

But, over the next 29 days I’ve been opening the game only to find that, sometime last week the folks running the Xbox Insider program noted a problem with early-offered builds that had a bug; a bug that specifically blocked the tracking of achievements like this! Ouch! I thought the bug was irrecoverable, meaning my new 20-day window would have started from last week, but they’ve obviously recovered some data or I had another slip-up sometime in late December.

Either way, I have the achievement and can get out of a daily grind of opening a game that I’m not interested in. I know, I know … first world problems, but I’m happy to be done. Two hundred GamerScore, a game completed, and an obligation done; I can see why this is called an achievement!!

Posted in Gaming | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Xbox and me

Posted by joeabbott on December 21, 2016

Custom Coat of ArmsI do a lot of Xbox-ing … everything from playing games alone, to sharing time with Suzy, to using the Xbox for slideshows and watching movies. And, increasingly, it’s becoming where I meet up with “friends” and share adventures. While it’s not a replacement for real life, it’s a good place to go to unwind.

Before anyone starts judging, realize that I watch no TV whatsoever … we don’t have cable, satellite, or “rabbit ears”. I don’t catch up on Hulu and, while we have Netflix, I really can’t remember the last time I watched a show via that medium. I do rent\buy movies through the Microsoft/Xbox online service, but it’s a rare thing that we watch too many shows. I do recall watching a lot of X-Files in the day and we did watch all of Lost … but I think that was the last show I followed. The only thing I still wish I could watch is sports … but, the Vikings are sinking faster than the Titanic this year, so my interest is waning.

Anyhow, I do enjoy gaming and most often enjoy RPG games … role-playing games. I get to determine how my character is built and that influences my experience in the game. I’ve found that I most enjoy “sneaky archer” type characters when they’re allowed.

But, the image to the left is my “Xbox crest” as determined by the Xbox Social and Live Services team … it represents the House of Trimbler. While it contains jets, guns, swords and dragon wings behind a shield … my gaming typically just requires the sword as I slash my way through various virtual worlds.

The Xbox folks sent me this as they noted I earned over 11,000 Gamerscore (on 504 achievements) in 2016 and that put me in the top 1% of Xbox gamers. Not sure if that should be a point of pride or a nudge to get off the couch, but let’s just accept it as fact.

A fun thing about the coat of arms above, is that they allow you to customize your own! While they got a bunch about what I’d choose right, here’s the coat of arms (using their preset options) that I’d have made:


Thanks for dropping by.

Posted in Gaming | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Dark Souls: A Soul Level 1 (SL1) run

Posted by joeabbott on May 29, 2016

I started this write-up a long while ago. I first wanted to document all the things about the Dark Souls video game that bothered me: the bosses or areas that did seem fair, mechanics that didn’t work well (I’m looking at you “lock on”), or the wonky camera tracking or unfair invasion aspects. But then I turned my mind to a Soul Level 1 play-thru and all that took a back seat.

After enjoying the challenge of not upgrading the lowest level character in the game, I got stuck on a boss and started another post about my progress to date: the weapons I picked up, the attributes I was honing, and my approach to the game. But then I got unstuck and finished the play-thru, and here I am, wondering how to proceed: write up a guide on playing through a SL1 character? providing a description of my journey? Or just sum things up?

Given the time and attention I should be spending elsewhere, you get a “quick” summary but let me say this: the SL1 bid was glorious. Frustrating lows and all the problems I note in the first paragraph, but glorious highs at beating a challenging game with the equivalent of one arm tied behind my back. There are other, harder challenges … but this was mine and one that I loved.

Soul Level 1

In order to play the game through at SL1, you need to play as a pyromancer character; he’s the only “pre-rolled” character who starts at Level 1 … and that’s a good thing. It’s good because, at Level 1, the pyromancer starts with decent (not great) strength, a reasonably good starting weapon, and two attunement slots (and the ability to cast pyromancies) from the start. While the starting weapon and two attunement slots are nice, neither are critical but the balance of strength, dexterity, and endurance make this starting character a good base to work from.

imageThe SL1 Secret

I’ll get this out of the way right now: the main thing you have to do to make getting through the game on SL1 (without super-human mechanical skills) is to upgrade the snot out of whatever it is you’re using. You have the option of a couple weapons that are viable at SL1 and an assortment of gear (for protection) and it’s critical that those pieces are upgraded as much as possible.

That’s it.

You’ll still need to work a long time on hard bosses, you’ll still die a bunch, but, in the end, with gear that’s maxed out, even a casual (albeit dedicated) player should be able to make it through the game.

For my play-thru I focused on the reinforced club as my main weapon. I had several of these: each upgraded to the max in its area. I had chaos flame, fire, and lightning varieties, each for the various baddies I’d bump into and would use, depending on their strengths and resistances.

For armor, I chose the following: the Crown of Dusk, black leather armor, sorcerer gloves, and brigand trousers. Some people choose items that look good; I chose the Crown because it amped my pyromancy flame, the armor and trousers because they gave me the best defense for the weight, and the gloves because they were light and provided just that bit more of protection. All of these items were chosen to keep my weight to a minimum so my character could still manage a fast roll.

While it’s nice to have strong armor in case you get hit, with a SL1 character, your best defense is to avoid being hit altogether. And when you will be hit, you need a good shield: the Balder shield. At four pounds it’s heavier than other mid-weight, 100% blocking shields, but this should be your choice for one reason: stability. Stability is the ability to take a hit and not be rocked backwards and this shield delivers the best stats in this category for the weight.

The last items I wear are rings: I chose the Ring of Favor and Protection, as it gave extra boost to my health, equip load, and stamina, and then switched out the other ring. Sometimes I’d travel in water, so the Rusted Ring was best; sometimes I’d need to use a lot of stamina so a Cloranthy Ring was the ticket; farming for items? I’d pop on the Covetous Gold Serpent Ring; and the final ring of choice was the Dark Wood Grain Ring … that glorious accoutrement that gave me extra mobility and invincibility frames. There were others (Charred Orange ring in lava zones, the Abyss Walker ring for the Four Kings fight), but my usual ring was the Dark Wood Grain Ring unless I had need of another.

You’re a Pyromancer … so use it

While a SL1 character has a lot of disadvantages, the main weapon you’ll learn to use is your pyronmancies. A character starting as a pyromancer has no special skills or advantages with these powers but because these spells (unlike miracles or wizardry spells) do not level with any particular attribute, so just having an improved pyromancy glove will make you super-powerful for these spells.

By mid-game, without the need to spend souls on leveling, you’ll have plenty of extra souls … so many that using them to level up your pyromancy glove will be a no-brainer. Do it and continue leveling to the max; yes, it’ll cost 100s of thousands of souls … and be worth it. In late game, few monsters (aside from bosses) could stand up to two Great Combustion blasts from my fully upgraded glove.

My general approach

It really boils down to three things: keep moving, avoid being hit, and take advantage of the enemy moves to deal your own damage.

Keeping moving and avoiding hits are probably the same thing, which is good because I just really need to remember two things: move and hit. It is essential that you find your timing and know when to get out and when to take advantage of a lull. In one fight against a new enemy I was trying to learn his moves and when I should dodge; I continually was punished and was left looking at my controller thinking, “didn’t I hit the roll button just then?” Keep at it, learn, and remember what you learned. In this fight I’d see what I was doing wrong but then enter the fray and commit the same mistake. Ugh.

The same goes for dealing damage. All enemies in Dark Souls have multiple attacks., of which at least one is a heavy attack that takes your foe an extra second or two to recover. Those are the ones you can best take advantage of. I stay just inside the attack zone and “bait” the heavy attack, get out of the way when I see it coming, and then rush in to lay in a hit of my own when he’s recovering.

In addition, parries and backstabs are great tactics to have comfortably under your belt.

One last thing: use help when you need it. I never called in a non-NPC summon for help (just didn’t have the chance), but I did call in plenty of others. Man-Eater Mildred did most of the heavy lifting against Quelaag, Solaire was indispensible several times (including the final fight with Gwyn), and Iron Tarkus pretty much solo-ed the Iron Golem. Purists can claim I took the easy way out, but just like dealing with invasions and that tight corridor you first fight the Capra Demon in are part of the game, so are summons for help. And my strategy was to use them.

The easy and hard

It’s difficult to say what’s easy based on my current approach and tease it away from the fact that I’d beat the game three times before my SL1 run.

As an example, the Taurus Demon went down in a handful of hits. No new strategy but I was used to the fight and didn’t panic like most new players do when presented with an aggressive foe who is 2-3 times bigger than my character. But, I’ll chalk that up to familiarity and not an extra special skills.

On the other hand, both Sif and the Darkroot Basin hydra were overmatched by my highly-leveled gear. I don’t believe I took any damage from Sif and once I got a couple hydra heads knocked off (and wasn’t bowled over each time it struck), it was just a matter of pruning the other heads.

On the other hand, I entered Oolacile and was bested by Artorias so many times, I had to give up and go to bed without figuring him out. He’s exceptionally aggressive, hits like a Mack truck, and has very few openings. I like the fight (not so much the long run back to his arena) but he was actually the first boss who took me days to figure out. He died in the end, but it took three sessions to best him.

Another enemy that gave me trouble was the Four Kings. Even wearing Havel’s armor and extra defense afforded by the pyromancy spell Iron Flesh, it took me probably 8 attempts. But, I always seemed to be on the cusp of success … the Kings just had a bit more luck than I did. Well, there was the time when I entered the arena, the Kings shot me with a staggering magic bolt, and then chopped me immediately thereafter without me having a chance to do anything. That felt less like luck and just plain old unfair.

Did you really beat the game on SL1?

Well, below is the evidence. The image shows my character with “Level = 1” on the right side and the Soul of Gwyn, Lord of Cinder on the left. Click the image to go to YouTube for a clip of Gywn getting it taken to him by me character and Solaire.


What’s next?

Well, if I were sensible I’d just go back to my other games but Dark Souls really has me. My SL1 character just felt too insignificant to take on the DLC later bosses (Kalameet and Manus) but I’d like to give them a try … so, I’m beefing up a strength-based character and will take him into the Abyss to fight these bosses on their turf. But even I’m getting a bit tired of the game (<gasp!>) so I may lose steam on this one … I’ll give it a try.

I’m certainly enjoying the journey

Thanks for dropping in and talking games, talking Dark Souls. Don’t go hollow!

Posted in Gaming | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »