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Brainscraps Holiday Card No. 6, and Future Plans

After taking 2020 off, the Holiday Cards are back! Without further ado, here is the sixth Brainscraps Holiday Card, Mary Sue’s Character Casino, which is fully playable via your desktop or laptop browser.

Mary Sue's Character CasinoThis is my most ambitious Holiday Card to date in terms of both game design and asset creation. The initial inspiration came through playing Luck be a Landlord, an Early Access roguelike deckbuilder I grew quite fond of this year. The few mobile gacha apps I’ve been playing around with might’ve also had something to do with this game’s theme. Once I’d settled on the basic premise, next was the game engine, which was no easy task. First I tried out Ct.js, but found it to be inadequate for what I was trying to make. Then there was Godot, which proved to be too complex for a brain as regularly wracked by insomnia as mine. The third engine I tried, GDevelop, wound up being a good middle ground, although it is not as polished as some others I’ve used in the past. It also uses the dread language JavaScript, though I won’t hold that against it (much).

All of this experimentation happened sometime in the middle of the year. That’s right. Whereas past Holiday Cards typically took between one and three months to make, start to finish, Mary Sue’s Character Casino was a half-year project. The static art assets alone took me more than a month and a half to create.

Putting all this time toward making the game meant less for other things, such as this blog. With that in mind, Mary Sue’s Character Casino will be the last Holiday Card for the foreseeable future. Starting in 2022, I’m going to make a real effort to revamp and revive this blog, with more frequent (and hopefully shorter) updates. In terms of content, I would like to post more here than just reviews and impressions, and bring back the sorts of commentary and features that used to appear here. A slight visual refresh is also being planned.

For those that have been reading all this time, thanks for sticking with me, and if you’re new here, welcome, and hope to see you again. I also hope that everyone has (or had, or is having) a safe and enjoyable holiday season!


The Recovery Game

Although I've mostly been on the couch instead of in bed, this pretty much sums up my last few weeks.In late February, I pulled a muscle in my leg, and the initial pain was so bad that I’m still recovering. I haven’t gone to a doctor, but progress has been good, and I hope it won’t be much longer until it’s all better. It’s been somewhat frustrating spending most of my days icing my leg on the couch while there’s stuff that needs to be done and various rooms in our house gather dust, but at least I’ve been able to pass the time with some games.

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2020 Manga Selections

Even though my 2020 in gaming was on the mediocre side, the same wasn’t true with manga. I read a lot of great stuff this past year, more than I can fit in this post. In addition to the ending of 2018‘s Manga of the Year, Silver Spoon, I wrapped up the comedic essay manga Skull-Face Bookseller Honda-san. There was also the first volume of Drawn & Quarterly’s long-awaited collection of Yoshiharu Tsuge works, The Swamp; What the Font?!, an informative introduction to typefaces; the cute BL story Our Dining Table; Sneeze, a solid short works collection by Naoki Urasawa; and the entertaining brain candy The Seven Princes of the Thousand-Year Labyrinth. Even a classic series I didn’t quite take to, Ai Yazawa’s Paradise Kiss, had a bit to recommend it. Note that not one of the manga I just named made it to the final list; that’s how good this past year was for me.

This ranking is done in much the same way as with my Gaming Selections, with honorable mentions and a top three. After each manga’s title is the author(s), the North American publisher, the first year of Japanese serialization, and the number of volumes I’d read roughly up until the end of 2020 (followed, in parentheses, by the total number of Japanese volumes). Series printed in omnibus, kanzenban, or similar editions are denoted with an asterisk (*), but the numbers reflect the original volumes as they were first printed in Japan. All of the cover images used here came from Right Stuf or the publisher’s website. Finally, there are no repeats from previous years’ lists in either the honorable mentions or the top ten, even if I was still reading (and loving) a particular series.

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2020 Gaming Selections

Well, that was a year. On-topic, I wish it had been a better one gaming-wise. There were the usual standouts, sure, but I feel that overall, the quality of the games I played was merely okay. Two games I want to highlight which didn’t qualify for this year’s list are Surviving Mars and Yakuza 0. If you like challenging city builders at all, Surviving Mars is a treat, and features a good variety of DLC; if I had to recommend just one, it would be Space Race, which fleshes out the core game with rivals, mini story events, and other features. As for Yakuza 0, it might end up being the best game I’ve ever played that’s not for me. I’m enjoying my time with it, but it’s also overwhelming in that way that the most celebrated open-world games are. I’m close to the end of both games; don’t be surprised if they surface in the 2021 Selections.

As usual, every game here is one I’ve beaten (or played extensively, in the case of “endless” titles) during the past year, regardless of release date. For each game in the top ten, the title, developer/author, platform(s) I played it on, and the release date for said platform in my region has been included, along with a little bit about why I found this game so memorable.

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Impressionistic Braincrumbs

SINoALICE hosts Parrah and Noya break the fourth wall every so often.I haven’t posted in quite some time, and I apologize about that. Part of this is due to all the work involved in settling into a new house, another part is probably because of 2020’s unique stressors, and yet another is thanks to my propensity to procrastinate. There’s also the matter of certain games that I’ve been playing, which I’ll be discussing here today. The main titles in this batch are all lengthy and dense with content; I’ve been playing one of them since last December, and the other two since July.

That said, this installment of Braincrumbs contains impressions, not reviews. The first game is a city builder with no proper campaign, though there are a set of storylines which I’m still working through. The second is a live service mobile game with an ongoing main storyline and regular events, and the third is the meatiest open-world adventure I’ve ever played. I’ve been playing all three in between some shorter games, and I have no idea when I’ll be done with them.

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Post-Move Hodgepodge

Detroit Metal City, vol. 5.We moved, and somehow even managed to order and receive some new furniture. That process wasn’t without its own headaches, and it’s not over yet. Nor is the unpacking; for starters, I’m still trying to figure out how to store and display my massive figure collection, especially since we have no walk-in closets this time. At least I was able to set up my office by mid-June, though a few other areas, such as the living room, are a work in progress.

The first thing I played on my desktop computer in the new house was Dungeons 3, which I reinstalled after picking up the latest and final DLC, “A Multitude of Maps”, during the ongoing Steam Summer Sale. As opposed to a mini-story, this DLC consisted of a set of skirmish maps, and given that I hadn’t touched the game in some time, it took awhile to reacquaint myself with the basics of play. The maps and missions were well designed, though I did miss having story content tying them all together.

Speaking of that sale, I installed Augmented Steam alongside a couple of other related browser extensions recently, and have been using it to see what the stats are for certain smaller games on my wishlist. Although I knew on an academic level that a lot of newer indie games have abysmal sales on Steam, it was still shocking to see some great-looking games—some of them rather highly-ranked on my wishlist—with Steam Spy-estimated ownership stats of 20,000 or less. My current plan is to buy a handful of these, including at least one at full price, alongside a few others that have done somewhere between a little bit and a lot better before the sale’s over.

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