Thursday, August 17, 2017

Reader Feedback

Enough of me talking. Today it's your turn!

If you've been following this blog for a while, then you know that I tend to write about a wide variety of subjects, including music, writing, parenthood, and more. So my question to you is this: is there anything in particular you want me to write about more often? Less often? Should this blog be all about one topic, or is it fine just the way it is?

In case it helps, here are the all-time top five posts in terms of number of views:

5. Happy 5th Birthday, Autism Empowerment!

4. Secret of the Songshell: Celeb Comps

3. Rockin' With Ian

2. Status Update!

1. Status Report!

Based on this, it would seem as if posts that update you on things I've been doing are the most popular...or maybe people just like Star Trek pictures?

Anyway, let me know what you think. There are three ways you can do that:

- Leave a comment on this post
- Email me at joelsuzukiseries@gmail.com
- Contact Joel via Twitter at @joel_suzuki (he'll pass the messages on to me)

We'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Stardew Valley (Guest Post By Connie Jasperson)

We continue our series of guest bloggers who are from this particular plane of existence - and not the parallel one inhabited by Joel Suzuki and company - with a post by Connie Jasperson. Connie lives in Olympia, Washington and is the author of the Tower of Bones series, Mountains of the Moon, Huw the Bard, and much more. Be sure to check those books out! Today Connie will be talking about the game Stardew Valley, which just so happens to be one of my daughter's favorites. Take it away, Connie!
#amgaming: Stardew Valley, by Chucklefish Games
by Connie Jasperson


I've mentioned before that I spend a certain amount of time playing computer games, especially when I am trying to avoid doing any serious writing. Just like the books I read when dodging work, I love to talk about whatever game I'm playing.

Today I am reviewing Stardew Valley, an open-ended country-life RPG which was built by indie programmer, Eric Barone under the alias Concerned Ape, and published by Chucklefish Games. It was released for Microsoft Windows in February 2016, with ports for OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One appearing later that same year.

I love old-school, indie-built RPGs, and Stardew Valley is one of the more absorbing games I've played lately.

But first, the Blurb:
You've inherited your grandfather's old farm plot in Stardew Valley. Armed with hand-me-down tools and a few coins, you set out to begin your new life. Can you learn to live off the land and turn these overgrown fields into a thriving home? It won't be easy. Ever since Joja Corporation came to town, the old ways of life have all but disappeared. The community center, once the town's most vibrant hub of activity, now lies in shambles. But the valley seems full of opportunity. With a little dedication, you might just be the one to restore Stardew Valley to greatness!

My Review:
The art and graphics are excellent and colorful. Each setting is fun to roam around in. If I have any complaint, it's the amount of walking back and forth over the same ground that one has to do to complete the many tasks, and the game clock keeps ticking while you struggle to get your farm up and running. Fortunately, from day one of the game there are many places to forage from, and what you find can be sold to buy more supplies.

In this game, I always play a female character, but you can create a male character just as easily. You can choose one of five farm maps, each with different pros and cons. I prefer the one with extra foraging opportunities, but there is one with more mining resources and another with a fishing river.

In all the scenarios, the farm plot is initially overrun with boulders, trees, stumps, and weeds, and the player must work to clear them to rebuild the farm: you will be tending to crops and livestock to generate revenue so you can further expand the farm's buildings and facilities.

I started over with different characters, once I figured out what I didn't know when setting up the first character. That's how I discovered the joy of having 4 completely different games going at once. (I laugh, but really I'm cringing.) Because I like each of the different storylines, I play whichever game I'm in the mood for, as none of the storylines are finished. I have married each of my characters off to different bachelors, which generates a different storyline and completely different cutscenes every time.

There are ten marriageable characters, and each generates a different storyline. You can marry anyone you choose, male or female. If you marry a member of your own sex, you will be offered the option of adopting children.

Friendships are important, and you can gain a lot of friends by doing odd jobs which will be posted on the community bulletin board. Romance happens slowly because figuring out what the character you are wooing likes can be difficult.

The mines are difficult, with some tough monsters. The creatures are fun, and some are hard to beat, but you do gain strength, and the wise miner brings food, so nothing is impossible. Fishing takes a bit of work, and it's not easy to learn, and figuring out how things work is challenging.

You will spend game time walking from place to place. A day on the farm typically takes 15 minutes of real time. Every task eats time - for instance, a walk to town consumes half an hour of the character's game-day. Added to the challenge is the 3 hours (6-to-9:00 am or longer in game time, not real time) you will devote to trying to get your chores done each morning so you can get going on cutting wood, fishing, or mining. All those tasks are important if you want to improve your farm.

This game contains many adult situations and isn't really for young children. This game also teaches budgeting and planning, real-life skills many adults don't have a great grip on. You do have to be careful with your gold. I suggest you add chickens and cows as soon as possible because, in Stardew Valley, mayonnaise is money - it's the first reliable source of daily income, producing revenue even in the winter.

During recent weeks here at la Casa del Jasperson, the road of real life has been too rocky for me to write. Hence, I've found this game to be quite the enjoyable time-sink. As of this post, I have not completed all the side quests, but since May 13th I have put well over 100 hours into it.

I purchased Stardew Valley on Steam for my PC and play with an X-Box controller, but the game is available for the Sony PS4.

I give Stardew Valley 5 out of 5 stars, as it is an excellent example of indie produced RPG games.

Attributions:

Stardew Valley Screenshot, (c) 2016 Eric Barone, via Wikipedia

This post originally appeared at conniejjasperson.com on July 7, 2017.

P.S. "Mayonnaise is money" is my new mantra

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Movie Roundup: Summer of '17

Once again, it's time for another installment of Movie Roundup! If you've been here before, you know that (1) these are not really reviews, these are just my random thoughts about movies I've seen, and (2) there may be massive spoilers, even to the point where I give away twists and endings and stuff. Lots of ground to cover this time around, so let's begin!

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
I'm pretty sure James Gunn got the idea of calling the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel "Volume 2" for the same reason I decided to subtitle the Joel Suzuki series with the word "volume." Because, you know, volume...music...okay, whatever. Anyway, it's nice to know that I may have the same twisted sense of wordplay as a popular and successful film director (he's also a musician). Speaking of which, have you seen Gunn's 2010 cult classic Super, starring Rainn Wilson in a story about a regular guy who tries to become a superhero? I loved it, but apparently it was a box office bomb. But despite that, Disney still asked Gunn to direct the first Guardians of the Galaxy! So I guess the lesson there is not to be discouraged by your failures...or something like that.

Power Rangers
I know that you know that I know that the new incarnation of Billy Cranston aka the Blue Ranger is a character on the autism spectrum. Which is a super cool thing in my opinion. And I think the writers and the actor did a good job with the portrayal, although of course it would've been nice to have an actor who was actually on the spectrum playing that part. But I suppose it's progress. The movie itself was okay, although at times it seemed like it was having a hard time deciding if it wanted to be fun and campy like the original (actually, the original-original was a Japanese tokusatsu series called Super Sentai) or dark and serious like the not-really-for-kids Power/Rangers short film.

Beauty and the Beast
We interrupt my random thoughts about movies I've seen during their initial theatrical run to talk about movies I've seen after they've hit the home video market. Can you believe that I have never actually seen the original animated version of this film in its entirety all the way through? Anyway, I enjoyed this version, not only for the great story and the incredible visuals, but also because I had fun near the end of the movie picking out all the actors I recognized from other stuff. Look, there's young Obi-Wan! And Magneto/Gandalf! And Professor Trelawney! And Caesar Flickerman! And isn't that Tish Jones?

Wonder Woman
Speaking of which, after this one was over I told my son "It seems like there are only about twenty or so genre film actors that Hollywood recycles, casting them in every single role." I mean, you have Chris Pine (the new Captain Kirk) playing Steve Trevor, Danny Huston (one of the Colonel Strykers) playing General Ludendorff, David Thewlis (Remus Lupin) playing Sir Patrick Morgan...oh, wait, right, did I like the movie itself? Yes. Yes, I did. DC, you got it right this time. Congrats. Now please, make sure that Justice League is just as good. Okay? Thanks.

Spider-Man: Homecoming
Speaking of good...wow. In my opinion, this was not only the best Spider-Man movie to date (yes, even better than Spider-Man 2), it was the best Marvel movie not called The Avengers (just the first one, not that Age of Ultron deal). Tonally, it was perfect - funny and light most of the way through, but serious at all the right times. It even had a dude from Hawaii playing someone who may or may not be Ned Leeds? And the casting of Michael Keaton (Birdman) as the Vulture was genius.

The Giver
Another one of my catch-up viewings. I decided to rent this after I read the book for my son's Autism Empowerment Book Club. Loved the book. Liked the beginning and ending parts of the movie (I didn't mind the aging-up of the characters, that's pretty standard practice, Percy Jackson did it as well), but I felt that the shoot-y action sequence in the late middle was a bit jarring. I mean, I get it, moviegoers want action, and I understand that the studio is trying to appeal not only to fans of the book but a general audience as well (e.g., the people who saw The Hunger Games and are now expecting ultra-violence in all of their YA adaptations), but...oh well, whatever.

The Big Sick
More proof that I don't just watch sci-fi/fantasy movies made for teenagers! I enjoyed this one a lot, largely because it seemed so...real, I guess. Not in a shlocky reality-show way, but it just felt like someone was following actual people around and filming them doing actual-people things (the part where Holly Hunter couldn't tell which way was up on her phone was spot on), albeit with steady, professional cameras (no Blair Witch Project-type shakiness here). It's now one of my all-time favorite rom-coms, along with The Lobster, Silver Linings Playbook, When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle...whoa, wait, I actually watch quite a lot of those things, don't I?

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Man was this movie nice to look at.

And with that, we come to the end of Movie Roundup for the summer of '17. Join us next time when it'll be dark and cold outside and I'll probably be talking about the aforementioned Justice League, Thor: Ragnarok, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, and some obscure indie flick called Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Until then!