Furious New Year


We’re now into the second week of 2013. Most years, January is to December is to November and November is to October, and so on. This year, though, is palpably different. There are huge differences in my life now, compared to a year since. I’m coming into the year with a little less optimism, a little less spring in my step. 2012 was a year of facing up to the real truth, and oh man was it scary. The reality of….well, reality, I suppose. It came and didn’t so much take me out of my comfort zone as blow my comfort zone to kingdom come.

There has been a troublesome trend recently to begin a new year with a larger than strictly necessary dose of reality. This year, I spent the lead up to Christmas trying to come to terms with the loss of my Grandmother (Nan Kay, my Mum’s Mum). When my Dadcu passed on in April, it was hard to accept because he had been, perhaps not in good health, but certainly in better spirits than he’d been in for some time. In my memories, he has been unwell since I knew him, but so vital and full of life. Never was there a man with such a cheeky grin when slipping me £5 and saying “Now don’t tell your Grandmother!”.

Then, inevitably, some time later my Nan would catch me and do the exact same thing, “don’t tell Dadcu,” she’d say with a chuckle. I think they both knew, but it was more fun that way. Dadcu was a fisherman and a Navy man. He had flags on his coffin and they played The Last Post as he burned. My Nan Kay, who always knew what to do, took him out to sea one last time, on the lifeboat that he was an avid supporter of. Shortly after that, she  suffered  what at the time appeared to be a stroke, but was actually misdiagnosed [name of rare brain problem that I can’t remember]. Nothing has ever pushed me closer to moving back to Wales, but I didn’t. I sent her cards, not as often as I should have done but it was all I could manage.

The most heart-breaking part of it all was that she seemed to be improving for a while. Then it all changed, the progress she’d made fell away and left her nude and unprotected. We’ll never know if she was in pain after that, or if she was still the same person inside. We will never be able to tell whether it was harder for her or for my Mum. Nan Kay lived until December. I can only hope she’s resting now. She never really got the hang of resting.

Lightning storm image

Fury.

It’s difficult to do so, but looking beyond that I learned a lot in 2012. I learned a lot of harsh truths about friendships and how fragile they can be. I learned what it’s like to work full time in an environment that is really foreign to me (an office), earning enough to pay the bills but almost nothing beyond, and the value of staying because the job, the company and the other people there are all great. I learned that no matter how keen I am about them, stupid ideas remain stupid ideas. I learned that no, not everything IS fair in love and war. I learned a healthy new fury at the current government. I learned that you can’t sit about all day and eat junk food and maintain a size 8-10 figure. I learned I don’t trust people as much as I thought I did. I learned that there’s a proper medical term for the type of insomnia I’ve had for the last few years. Much more besides.

I don’t make new year’s resolutions. I do take the start of the year as an opportunity to assess myself and often, to give myself a good talking to. This year, I was sterner than usual. I may not be starting the new year happy, but I’m fierce. I may not be convinced but I’m determined. I may not be perfect, but dammit I’ve got to keep trying to be.

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I am a fool, also a cat.


On the 10th, I made a post ranting about November game releases. One of the games I talked about at length was Diablo 3. However, despite fact-checking pretty much everything else, I was so certain in my knowledge about the release date of the game that I didn’t look it up.

It turns out that this was a massive mistake and Diablo 3 isn’t actually going to be released until summer 2012, and will be in beta until then. Where I got the idea that it was going to come out yesterday, I haven’t got a clue, but I was wrong.

I’m sorry if the previous post caused any confusion, disappointment, or anything else. My boyfriend was certainly quite miffed, what with being a huge fan of the Diablo series.

As for Skyrim first impressions – oh gosh yes. Less of what was a bit hand-holdy and ‘let’s just put some fantasy tropes in a pretty land’ about Oblivion, more of the atmosphere and tension from Morrowind.

Minecraft


Another game I’ve been spending a lot of time on recently is Minecraft. Created by the enigmatic Notch (a Swedish bloke), Minecraft (MC) is a global phenomenon. Even though it’s currently only in beta testing, MC has sold over a millions copies.

I’m a relative newcomer to MC. A friend lent me his account for a few days and when I eventually got around to playing it (I admit that I did ignore it for a fair while before trying it out – I was dubious) I was hooked pretty quickly.

I wasn’t hooked instantly, though, since the complete lack  of a tutorial left me furiously hammering the mouse button because I didn’t know any better. Some kind of introductory thing would be hugely helpful, even if it was only telling you the controls.

After I worked out how to actually collect basic materials I had to return to the MC wiki to find out what the heck I could do with an inventory full of bits of tree and earth. It became clear quite quickly what I needed to do.

Hide.

It was getting dark, and in MC, while the sunsets are actually quite pretty and picturesque, they spell trouble. And in MC, trouble is spelled c-r-e-e-p-e-r. When it gets dark, scary things come out to play, where play = kill you and eat you.

minecraft fleeeee

Because it had taken me so long to figure out how the basic controls worked, I  hadn’t had time to make a shelter or find coal to make torches (the only source of light in the scary dark night). This meant I was alone and open to attack. The safest thing I could think of was to dig a small pit and cower until the sun came up. Which I did. I’m not sure if it was luck or something else, but I survived that first night pretty easily and safely. The noises scared me to the edge of my seat though. The groaning of zombies, the chittering of spiders and the twang of skeleton’s bowstrings, all combined with something I couldn’t identify and the occasional explosion to make the fairly quiet night seem cacophonous.

When the sun rose, I emerged blinking from my pit and jumped immediately back into it. I could see from where I had been a zombie on fire. Turns out the MC monsters don’t like the sun. It burns some to death and makes others docile. After a moment or two I ventured forth into the world again and started to plan out a place to live and mine.

minecraftscape

Minecraft really is a game that does what it says on the tin. You mine to gather materials and then use them to craft almost anything you can think of, really. I’ve seen some fantastic things, ranging from a scale model of the SS Enterprise from Star Trek, to a funky little beach parasol made by abusing the strange physics the game has.

This a game which really has me gripped, and a lot of my friends too. We have gone to some lengths to set up a multiplayer server, including using a laptop which does NOTHING ELSE other than run idle, dedicated to the server. (Admittedly, it is a laptop which has no screen, but that’s beside the point)

Steep learning curve aside, I highly recommend this game. It is one that takes you and has you gripped. It lets your imagination run wild, and gives you a real sense of achievement. Don’t believe me? Try mining your first diamond vein, or trapping your first monster in a cleverly designed trap which implements Redstone (Minecraft’s equivalent of electricity). Then you’ll see what I mean.

Recent Crazes in AliceLand


So, lately I’ve been playing a lot of Puzzle Quest 2. I can’t think of any better way of putting it than ‘Bejewelled – the Role Playing Game’. Essentially, you play a character who, in typical RPG style, locates a village and has to (for no good reason) save it from the baddies. You do this by fighting off various monsters. However, in place of a conventional battle system, you play bejewelled against an opponent. Your character earns mana from matching colours and uses it to cast spells, most of which alter the board state in some way.

When you’ve killed the monster, you might find a chest to loot! To do this, you play bejewelled, matching up various chests and crowns and coins instead of gems. You may come across a locked door on your adventure! To open it, you can bash it down with bejewelled power, or cast a spell of opening using your bejewelled magic, or pick the lock with bejewelled lock picks. You might have to search a room for a clue, or disarm a trap. I’m sure you can guess how….

Despite being very repetitive, PQ2 is a good game. It does exactly what you expect. It lets you play bejewelled, but makes it slightly more interesting. The abilities and spells your characters get are a great addition to the game and make it very interesting. Being able to turn half the gems on the board purple, then destroying all the purple gems for MASSIVE DAMAGE! is great fun.

There are a few kinks, and the levelling and mini-games systems I think especially need some more work. For instance, it’s just as easy to use a spell to unlock a door as it is to bash it down, whether you’re a berserker or a sorcerer. It would be nice if this was altered to be more appropriate.

All in all though, if you’re looking for a casual game to sink a few hours into (I’ve lost nearly thirty so far), Puzzle Quest 2 is an excellent candidate.  It’s available on Steam and a very reasonable price, so really there’s no reason not to buy it! (Unless you have a particularly addictive personality. Then it might not be such a great idea)