Weekly status update [0044/????]

Another quiet week; I’ll try to be less blather-y than last time.

  • I finally finished Ash.  It was definitely worth the read, even though I probably did permanent damage to my eyesight with that damn book.  It’s hard to recommend, though, given its length… but I’ll recommend it anyway.  Gritty, clever, and moving, it made for a superb read.  And if nothing else it’ll take you ages and feel like an accomplishment when you’re done!
  • I’m now reading The Labyrinth Index, the eighth book in the Laundry Files series.  It’s very good so far, although the setting is very, very bleak (for reasons that are pretty major spoilers for the series as a whole).  Despite it being a much quicker read than Ash–how can it not be?–I find myself putting it aside constantly to do something else.  It’s not the book’s fault; it’s that I’m pretty drained on the reading front.  I’m gonna finish it in the next day or two, though.
  • As mentioned earlier this week, the puzzle stuff I’ve been working on with Krazydad went live on his site.  We’re now working on… something else, that may or may not result in further puzzling goodness.  Further news as events warrant.
  • I’ve continued to poke my way through Tametsi, which is fantastic but also intensely brain-burning.  After uninstalling all of the free-to-play stuff on my PS4, I… basically haven’t booted it up since, other than to buy the new Williams pinball table pack for Pinball FX3.
  • I finished up a book of sudoku puzzles I had been working on off-and-on for, like, four years.  Well, mostly finished.  The last three puzzles suddenly required a bunch of advanced techniques that the other 209 didn’t; I know how to do those techniques, mind you, but I felt it was a betrayal of confidence in the structure of the magazine and called it quits.  One down, a million to go…
  • I’m not really watching anything on TV right now other than keeping up with The Good Place.  You are watching The Good Place, right?  It’s fantastic.

This weekend looks to be very ugly here, with incoming snow-storms.  I’ve prepped as much as is reasonable and am heading to bed early now just in case.  Hopefully I just end up snowed in rather than, y’know, snowed in and freezing.  We shall see!

Here’s a videogame thing: Let It Die

After months of putting it off, I finally beat Let It Die late Sunday afternoon while a friend of mine watched through the magic of Sony’s “Share Play.”  Monday morning, I uninstalled the game, likely never to play it again.

Total time spent in game: upwards of 560 hours.  That’s a bit of a lie; there’s at least twenty or so hours there that were just the PS4 idling, for Reasons.  But only a bit of one.  I most certainly actively played the game for upwards of five hundred hours.  The only thing I’ve ever played even close to that much is probably the MUD I ran back in the mid-to-late ’90s, sadly defunct now.

So, an important question comes to mind: was Let It Die any good?

I… think so.  I’m not certain.  It’s free-to-play, and while it has without a doubt the least scummy F2P mechanics of any game I’ve played–it actually hands out the premium currency often enough that you never need to spend a penny on the game–I’m also aware that the gacha/slot machine mechanics that underlie basically every F2P game have a nasty way of short-cutting people’s critical faculties.

I’ll talk about the bits I am confident of, though.  Let It Die is an action RPG roguelike… thing, with a distinct sensibility in style and sound design that pretty much had to come from Grasshopper Manufacture, the company that Suda51 (of No More Heroes and Killer7 fame) started.  It has, without a doubt, the best damn soundtrack of any videogame since Katamari Damacy. (The fact that you can’t buy the OST is frickin’ criminal.)  And the combat in the game is extremely satisfying, in a Dark Souls-esque way; you learn how to handle just about everything with careful consideration (and the occasional death).  Most of the enemies in the game amount to AI-controlled versions of your own characters, which at first seems a bit lame–where’s the variety?–but it ends up being a strength, not a weakness, as it gives you a sense of how each weapon works from both sides.

The ending, which I won’t spoil, was something of a disappointment, in that there was a fairly obvious “twist” I was expecting that didn’t actually happen.  And the ending is actually no ending at all, nowadays; the game is fairly crammed with “post-game” content (and only now do I realize just how ridiculous that particular term is… how can anything in a game be, you know, post-game?), but after sinking the amount of time I did into the title I had no interest in pursuing those particular slogs.

It has crafting mechanisms, which are the main place that the gacha/lottery elements come into play, but other than a couple of particular grinds–expect to see a lot of a particular 21-22-23F run–it doesn’t actually feel that onerous.  It has kinda-sorta-not really permadeath, but careful play (and judicious use of the freemium currency) can work around that too.  And the asynchronous multiplayer PVP is an interesting design effort that I wish more single-player games would take a very hard look at copying.

Yes, there are a couple of really nasty difficulty spikes in the game, but they’re nothing that can’t be overcome with good equipment and deilberate care.  Above all, I feel like its design is scrupulously fair, which is basically something that is never ever true for free-to-play games.

This is all very disjointed, so let’s circle back around to the question.  Is Let It Die any good?  Yes.  Yes it is.  But I uninstalled it.

That said, I uninstalled all the other free-to-play games the night before, right after I beat Let It Die, with no sense of loss.  And right now I’m glancing at my PS4 controller, wondering whether I should install LID again and make another run at the Tower of Barbs.

I shouldn’t.

But will I?

[Let It Die is also available on Steam nowadays, for those of you who don’t have a PS4 and want to check it out.  It’s free there too.  But don’t say I didn’t warn you as to how much time it may absorb.]

Ripples and effects

This is just a quick note: the puzzles that I’ve been working on with Krazydad–Ripple Effects, as made not-very-famous by Nikoli–went live this evening!  You can even solve them online, no need for a printer.  The online version can be found here, and if you’re the sort that would rather print them out and solve them the old fashioned way, the PDFs are here.  I will definitely be doing a Phil’s Puzzle Primer on them soon, so stay tuned, but there are instructions in both places that will help you get started.  Enjoy!  And you may even see more collaboration the two of us in the future.  We’re currently discussing a new puzzle type of my own devising.  We’ll see what happens.

This is the first of the super-tough puzzles.  I… strongly recommend you don’t start there.