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September 2017 Retrospective

tl;dr I completed a good number of my goals but played way to much PUBG.

Health

I exercised every day of the month again. It really has become a habit. I wake up and one of the first things I am think about is how am I going to exercise today? I also managed to boulder twelve times as well so I'm very happy that I was able to keep that up again. I thought getting up at 6:20am during the week would wear on me but I've been pushing forward.

Speaking of bouldering I actually am getting better. In my August retrospective I was complaining about how I was hitting a plateau and not really improving but that doesn't seem to be the case. I was able to complete a number of V4 problems this month including some that I was really convinced I wouldn't be able to do. My goal for October is to try to complete three to four V4 problems in a single session. I really want to push myself because I have been completing a V4 and then retreating to the safety of V3s that I know I can finish.

Foodwise, Elsie and I have eaten a bit more from the grocery stores around us for dinner during the week but we aren't gorging on bad stuff and are still drinking our Soylent. Even if we also eat dinner that night, drinking a Soylent is a good step because it makes you not want to buy or prepare as much food as you normally would. I cooked steak and asparagus once every weekend as well so we did cut down on our usage of Try Caviar and Uber Eats. Breakfast and lunch have still been eating healthy so I am quite happy with where I am with respect to food. I think being more active or working on gaining muscle is the next step before I try to cut down on what I eat.

My weight and body fat are still the same. I am fairly content with how I look for the most part so I am not worrying too much about it stabilizing. I knew losing fat would be hard and since I am not trying to gain muscle there really isn't any impetus for me to be burning fat unless I am starving myself. Because I am getting better at bouldering I am going to continue to push forward and see if that improves things before taking another hard look at weight training.

Read a book

I finished The Fall of Hyperion and was not impressed. The world and characters that were built up in the first book seemed to just fall by the wayside so they could be replaced with a story about sentient mass murdering computers and time travel (which may sound good but I found rather unimaginative). I really didn't care about anything in the book and finished it out of a bizarre sense of obligation. I probably should have just stopped reading earlier.

The Fall of Hyperion is the second book in the four part Hyperion Cantos series. After I finished it I immediately read the summaries for the third and fourth books and continued to be not impressed. I really did love Hyperion (as you can see in my July retrospective) but the series just took a sudden sharp turn that I was not expecting and lost all of my interest.

I purchased The Way of Kings, the first book in The Stormlight Archive and will make that my book of October.

Play a video game

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle started out strong but fell apart about halfway through the game. The first world was very fun and the tactical elements were engaging against the first type of enemies you fought. But as the game went on it mostly just added health to the enemies without really changing anything up or adding much to your arsenal.

Party composition was another issue. There really was no impetus to change party members. You had a limited amount of resources to buy equipment so when you sink so much into one character it is hard to change away from them. If you experiment with new characters and don't do as well it could result in you getting less resources so the game really pushes you towards to picking a team you are comfortable with and sticking with them.

The game also has some of the cardinal game design sins like multi-part battles where if you lose you have to start from the beginning or boss battles that rely on a combination of luck or dying to them once so you can memorize their movements.

On the whole I would not recommend this game because I think most people are going to get frustrated by it. It is decent but games like this survive on their gameplay and Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is simply too rough around the edges of a tactics game. The further you get the more strategy takes a back seat to randomness and luck.

Oh, also fuck those stupid teleporting Peek-a-Boo enemies!

On the same day Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle was released another tactics game came out, XCOM 2: War of the Chosen. X-COM is one of my favourite game franchises of all time so I had high hopes for this XCOM 2 expansion but unfortunately it is not what I was looking for.

The majority of the additions to the game seem to be designed to just drag the game out longer and make it more boring or frustrating.

All of this adds up to what seems like Firaxis' new design philosophy for XCOM which is randomness results in more gameplay and it is something that I just don't enjoy from my tactics games. I prefer these games to be more like a puzzle that I am coming up with a solution for but when the rules can change randomly, the time you spend strategizing seems more and more pointless. Even when I had the Shadow Chamber and could see what enemies I was going to be facing and picked what I thought was the perfect team composition, it did't matter because the game chose to pull the rug out from under me.

Also, like Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, XCOM 2: War of the Chosen commits the cardinal game design sin of requiring you to die to learn. They add all sorts of new mechanics and missions and don't explain anything up front and expect you to fail so you can memorize the pattern and regurgitate it next time.

The parts of War of the Chosen that are great are the things that are concrete. The new Resistance classes are great. I love their unique abilities and they really do help spice up the combat. The addition of ability points is great because you can choose specific soldiers to improve with specific abilities. Soldier bonds are great because the game specifically shows you how compatible soldiers are and as you improve their bond you get rewarded with more abilities. Even some of the new enemy types are cool because they bring unique abilities which you have to be prepared to counter. These are the type of additions I want to my tactics game. Concrete game mechanics with fixed rules that are explained and you can adapt to.

Honestly if Firaxis removed the Chosen from the game I think it would be better which is insane since the expansion is literally named after them. Even if they removed the Chosen randomly appearing in missions and instead had set missions where you knew you were fighting them would have made the game better. Of all of the "new" XCOM games I would still say that XCOM: Enemy Within was the best and that I really hope Firaxis realizes this before they make XCOM 3.

Finally, I got back into PLAYERUNKNOWN'S BATTLEGROUNDS because a bunch of friends I used to play games with on the east coast finally got into PC gaming. I'm not sure what else to say about PUBG except that it is still incredibly addicting and fun, very rough around the edges and I wish it had some way to practice shooting. The developers have made some nice additions like a first person only mode and fog weather effects but the game still is progressing slower than I would expect from a developer that has taken in over $300,000,000 in revenue.

I have also realized that I get angry or frustrated really easily when I play video games (particularly multiplayer ones) and it makes people not want to play with me. I have been making a conscious effort to not be as negative and be more positive whenever I am communicating in multiplayer games.

Become conversational in another language

I didn't do this at all because of PUBG. It was just too easy to come home, eat dinner and find someone playing the game.

I am going back to Japan in 2017 and I really need to step this up because being able to read the most basic things does make life a whole lot easier.

Hobby Programming

I am not sure why I keep this section in here. Probably out of a sense of guilt and hopes that public shaming will make me change things but it is still the same old thing where after work I am just not in the mood for more programming.

I did add the ability to link directly to a webpage from my blog so that should fit under here but it really wasn't that much work.

Do not indulge in time killing activities

I think Elsie and I have continued to minimize this. We still watch an hour or so of TV a day (this month was Game of Throne season 7, Narcos season 3 and Breaking Bad seasons 2 and 3) but it is mostly as a some downtime between other activities we planned to do.

You could look at the crazy amount of PUBG that I played as a "time killing activity" and I agree the line is blurry but since I am trying to ensure I play video games every month it is very much a grey area.

Review

So how did I do?

Exercise every day of the month
Nailed it again 🤘🏻

Cook dinner one day on the weekend and cheat the other
Cooking steak and asparagus never gets old.

Read The Fall of Hyperion
Much to my chagrin I did this.

Start XCOM 2: War of the Chosen campaign
Yup. I started and failed two campaigns and am in the early stages of a third. If this one fails I will probably stop playing the game.

Stream Monster Hunter XX
While I got MHXX working on my Switch I unfortunately didn't play it and instead streamed a ton of PUBG instead.

Memorize all of Hiragana and Katakana
um....

Add the ability to link directly to a webpage from my blog
I did do this but it still isn't perfect. The Ubershaders article was the test but I still don't like how I indicate it is an external link and what anchor tags actually use the external link. Daring Fireball was my goto template for this sort of thing but because he posts more links than original content I'm not sure his method works for my blog.

I'm definitely going to explore this more and tweak it.

Build Observables framework
Fuck

Write one article for my blog
I started my Japan Travel Tips series and plan to write a few more articles about that before I head back to Japan later this year. It is good to look back and see what worked and what didn't so I can hopefully have a better experience.

Conclusions

Other than not programming or studying Hiragana and Katakana I am happy with how this month turned out. Sure I played a ton of PUBG but I also got a lot of other things done and did not waste time like I usual. I am definitely going to try to tone down the amount of PUBG I play in October and sprinkle that time out amongst some other hobbies.

My goals for October (in no particular order):

#MonthlyRetrospective

🎮