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January 2017 Retrospective

Whelp the first month of 2017 is over and it is time for me to look back on what I did well and what my lazy ass could improve on.

Health

I am supposed to be exercising every day by doing a combination of cardio, weight training and core exercises. In addition to eating healthy the goal for 2017 is to get to 15% body fat. I did one of those things...

I managed to exercise every day but unfortunately I only did cardio. For some reason I just could not get over the mental block of starting weight training or yoga because I had absolutely no idea where to begin. This is not a valid excuse and is something I really need to change in February. I am going to make a goal of taking up yoga and doing at least 20 minutes of it twice a week in February. I am considering using something like YogaGlo but I think I will just try to start with a routine like this and maintain it for a week or two. My apartment does offer yoga classes so maybe once I have the foundations down, paying for scheduled classes will be an excellent motivator.

I also have continued eating like shit and as a result my body fat percentage has not changed at all. During the weekend of January 21st I decided to create a weekly dinner schedule for myself so that I would be less tempted to eat unhealthy. The current plan is spaghetti on Mondays. Chicken breasts and greens Tuesday through Friday. The weekends will be a bit unique in either my girlfriend and I will go out somewhere Saturday night and cook on Sunday or we will slow cook something like chili or stew to get us through the weekend. I hope this along with eating no carbs or sugars at work will help kickstart my weight loss.

Read a book

I read Abaddon's Gate and got a little over a third of the way through Cibola Burn, books 3 and 4 in The Expanse series. While this writing is by no means Tolkien in space I throughly enjoyed it. The plot can be quite tropey at times with characters that appear to be wearing plot armor but on the whole the sci-fi setting is really enthralling. Each book in the series always adds new point of view characters and, for the most part, they have all been engaging. I haven't had a character who would make me let out a groan when one of their chapters came up. If you are into science fiction and space travel you could do a lot worse than The Expanse books so I highly recommend you give them a read.

I will definitely finish Cibola Burn in February and I haven't yet decided if I will move onto the fifth book, Nemesis Games, or try something different like The Sparrow.

Play a video game

Since there are no games being released in January 2017 that I want to play I decided to look back at my Steam library for indie games that I haven't played and give them a shot.

1. Castle Must Be Mine

The first tower defense game I have played in VR and it was fucking incredible. You stand like a giant or god above the battlefield and build towers while moving a single unit around to help engage the enemy. There are only five levels right now that will take you about an hour or two to beat but the concept of this game has me super excited. Tower Defense is one of my favourite video game genres (with Kingdom Rush being my favourite game) and seeing this made me realize how much potential strategy games with this god-like view have. I am super excited to see what levels come out next for Castle Must Be Mine as well as what other tower defense games come out for the HTC Vive.

2. Space Pirate Trainer

A flipping amazing VR game that takes full advantage of the room scale controls of the HTC Vive. The music gets your blood pumping and the games are fast and simple enough that the second one ends you want to play another. The one problem I have found is that after you get to level 15, which took me about an hour, things started to get a little repetitive. That wouldn't be so much of an issue if the game was structured in a way such that you could try to break your high scores but because the game has a lot of random elements to it you sometimes feel that you drew the short straw and it would be easier to die and start again. This started to kill the replayability of it for me but Space Pirate Trainer is still a perfect game to showcase VR to anyone.

3. Thumper VR

Played it for ten minutes and the controls for the HTC Vive made me so angry that I shut the game down in frustration. The developer really should not have added support for VR controllers and instead forced you to use a gamepad or the keyboard while staying seated. I have seen other people play Thumper outside of VR and they looked like they were having a blast. It is unfortunate that such a poor VR port was made. Maybe I'll go back and give this a second chance with an Xbox controller but there are a lot of other games to play.

4. Chaos Reborn

I backed this game on Kickstarter because it was designed by Julian Gollop, the designer of my favourite game of all-time X-COM: UFO Defense. I was expecting a similarly engaging single player game but what I got was a multiplayer focused turn based strategy game with almost no tutorial.

I spent about two hours doing the so called "tutorials" and challenges. After I felt confident enough I dove into the single player mode and encountered screen after screen of things I had never seen before. The onboarding process for Chaos Reborn was just abysmal. I thought I understood the game after the tutorials but I was just inundated with new mechanic after new mechanic through massive blocks of text.

I didn't come away thinking that Chaos Reborn was a bad game per se. I just had no patience to read their tome to understand arcane game mechanics that, in my opinion, were poorly explained. I wasn't looking for some ludicrously deep multiplayer strategy game. I was hoping for a engaging single player game ala XCOM so it feels like I simply entered with the wrong expectations.

5. Banner Saga 1 and 2

I also kickstarted Banner Saga back in the day but just never got around to playing it. Since I read that it was a 8-12 hour single player turn-based strategy game I figured it would fit me to a tee.

The story and art style were great and really drew me into the Viking inspired world. The writing got me attached to the characters and I probably played the game for 4+ hours straight when I beat it because I was so enthralled. The strategy layer of the game was solid. I loved the concept of having to choose between attacking an enemy's armor or strength. Do you damage their armor and set yourself up for more damage with following attacks while leaving yourself vulnerable or do small amounts of damage to their strength so they can't hurt you? It is a simple enough mechanic that makes it so you are very rarely on complete autopilot when playing because the best decision is not always clear. Each class also has abilities they can activate using a "willpower" resource which offered some spice but unfortunately the descriptions for some abilities are very poor so there was a lot of trial and error.

Unfortunately, traveling the overworld and the decisions you were presented with with got frustrating very fast. Some decisions felt completely pointless while others suddenly lead to the death of a character. I felt cheated on more than one occasion. I wasted a lot resources on supplies for my caravan because I thought that it was important but really I should have spent those resources on leveling my characters. There were a lot of little mechanics outside of the strategy layer that felt very half-baked which honestly is something that I expected from a first time developer.

The story and strategy gameplay were enough that I immediately wanted to continue on with Banner Saga 2. I haven't beaten it yet (probably 60% of the way through) but so far it feels more like an expansion to Banner Saga than a numbered sequel. Everything feels identical with the exception of the addition of a few new classes which does spice up the combat a little but not dramatically. The story is still solid though so I am very much looking forward to finishing it and kickstarting Banner Saga 3.

Become conversational in another language

Yeah I just plumb forgot about this. I'll use the excuse that I was busy with other things but I easily could have carved out a couple hours a week. Let's see if I can change things up in February.

Release an app

I also did not work on my app at all in January. I couldn't even start a blog post about it. I'm not sure what it is that is blocking me. I know I would use the shit out of this app if I had it but the daunting task of actually shipping it just keeps gnawing at the back of my brain.

Baby steps need to be taken so this month I am going to try to blog about what I think the foundational components needed for any mobile app are and try to open source a couple of those. Maybe that will kickstart the creative juices and get me engaged again.

Do not indulge in time killing activities

I failed horribly at this which probably didn't help learning a language or shipping an app. I have seriously considered blocking reddit.com on my router. I also put a considerable amount of Modern Family on in the background while working.

Conclusions

I am one month into 2017 and I basically fucked up every resolution except for play video games and read books. I guess things could be worse but I really need to take a step in the right direction in February. Eating right, yoga and a couple of blog posts about foundational components of mobile apps along with some source code are my goals for February 2016!

#MonthlyRetrospective

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