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June 2021 Retrospective

I have been unrelenting in my critique of the various governments of Canada and how they have handled the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Even just last month I was being all negative and saying that it was looking like it would take until the end of August for every eligible Ontarian to get their second dose. At the time of this writing Ontario is on pace to fully vaccinate at least 70% of the eligible population by the end of July. By the end of August everyone who wants a second dose will have it. Canada is also on pace to become the most vaccinated county in the world. It is absolutely bonkers!

What I am most happy about is how many Canadians are interested in getting the vaccine. My time in America left me quite jaded and I was all but certain that at least 30% population would be vehemently against the vaccine because it would allow Bill Gates to spy on them, make them magnetic, give them autism, rewrite their DNA to turn them a bird, and whatever other fucking nonsense the lead paint connoisseurs on this planet believe. But that number is closer to single digits so the sane part of the population can get to herd immunity and once again protect those potential Darwin Award recipients from themselves.

With Ontario entering step 2 of its reopening plan and step 3 just on the horizon, the end truly seems like it is near.

The Good

COVID-19 Vaccinations

https://twitter.com/statuses/1410167802502291460

I spent the first part of this retrospective praising Canada but just look at the rest of those numbers. We've administered over 3 billion vaccinations and are currently averaging 41 million a day. I've spent the last four months being negative at how Canada has been handling this but now I'm gonna try to be a glass half full kinda guy.

WWDC 2021

Apple held their Worldwide Developer's Conference remotely, just like last year, and it continued to be vastly superior to anything they have ever held in-person. Fingers crossed Apple realizes this and doesn't try to herd everyone back to San Jose next year. Developers for Apple's platforms are located all across the globe, just like Apple's own employees. They should continue to create these amazingly well edited sessions and host in-person labs in all the major cities where their offices/employees reside.

I was incredibly salty about the Keynote, mostly because we didn't get any new Mac hardware. But the actual WWDC sessions themselves were fantastic. I know it is cliche but I think the "Meet Swift Concurrency" sessions are a must watch for every developer. Swift Concurrency probably isn't going to make a big difference in your life in the next year or two but it will become a critical aspect of it sooner than you think.

Apple is in a massive transition right now and things like Swift, Apple Silicon, SwiftUI, and Augmented Reality are going to drive this company for the next decade.

Physical contact with other human beings

It has been over six months since I was last in the presence of another human being without wearing a mask. To be able to see my family, share a meal, play with my nieces and nephews, smoke a cigar, and just enjoy each other's company, it is hard to put into words how great that was.

I cannot wait to get my second dose of the vaccine in early July and spend more time with friends and family because life is too damn short!

Monster Train

I don't know how Monster Train slid under my radar but it definitely would have been in my top five games of 2020. It's a weird combination of deck-builder meets tower defence meets roguelike. It's kinda like what Hades would look like as a deck-builder.

You are a train, full of monsters, that is trying to save hell. It has frozen over and only the pyre that fuels your engine can reignite the inferno. But obviously the forces of heaven can't have that and they want to stop you at all costs. Think Snowpiercer meets Dogma.

What I find so engaging is just like Hades or Into the Breach there is so much variability in what you start with each run. I've only played about six hours but I've barely scratched the surface on all the possible combinations. And just like Hades, after every battle you get to select bonuses which can drastically change your play style. It's going to take me dozens of hours before I feel like I've exhausted all of the possible options.

Also, the team at Shiny Shoe deserves mad props for their UI. It is insane to find a deck-building game that doesn't leave me completely perplexed. Monster Train's tooltips are crystal clear. I always know exactly what it is going to happen and am never surprised.

The Queen's Gambit

I've written about how much I enjoyed Netflix's The Queen's Gambit miniseries so I am happy to report that the novel it was based upon is just as good. The adaptation was actually more faithful than I would have thought. The major difference is that the book is able to give a really nice breakdown of the thoughts going through Beth Harmon's mind as she is playing chess. The way it breaks down the strategies of chess is very enjoyable to a novice student of the game like myself.

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart

Is Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart a very pretty and fun game? Absolutely. Is it a truly next-gen game? I don't think so. Everything that has been touted as "only possible on the PlayStation 5" has been possible on PCs for years and in a lot of cases even possible on the PS4 Pro or Xbox One X.

The next-gen hardware definitely makes things better. Don't get me wrong. The loading times are fantastic. But they've been possible to anyone with a SSD for years now. Sony and Insomniac have pitched the switching between dimensions gimmick in Rift Apart as something that would be literally impossible on last-gen hardware. But you only need to look at Titanfall 2's Effect and Cause level or Dishonored's A Crack in the Slab to find examples of games that have done it, and objectively done it better. I want to reiterate, I really did enjoy Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. It was another solid entry in the series. But I was just annoyed at how much it was touted as a truly next-generation experience when it wasn't.

It is pretty crazy that we are already eight months from the release of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X and we haven't yet received a game that can only run on them. Hell the PS5 only has three next-gen exclusives (Astro's Playroom, Returnal, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart) while the Xbox Series X has none. The kicker is that for the rest of the year there aren't even any other next-gen exclusives being released. Everything is coming out for both the PS4 and Xbox One X. At this point in time it looks like Sony and Microsoft should have been holding off releasing their new hardware until holidays 2022.

The Bad

Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance

Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance is an absolutely trash video game. It feels like a rushed final year project of some game design students who barely understand Unreal Engine. It is hard to believe how much worse Dark Alliance is compared to the hack-and-slash games from the early 2000s it is trying to emulate. I legit would rather play and upscaled version of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers from 2002.

Even though it is on Xbox Game Pass you should save you time and not bother trying it.

Chess

Remember how last month I wrote that my rating jumped from 698 to 793 and I had no idea how or why? I was so full of myself and thought "this hype train has to keep going right?" so I set a goal of a 900 rating by the end of July. Well 94 games later and with a record of 45-46-3 I ended the month with a rating of 790.

That last sentence doesn't convey the truly hellish roller-coaster I went on. I actually went 20-13-0 to start the month and obtained a peak rating of 865 before crashing back down to reality and ending with a pitiful 25-33-3. I was on full tilt and just could not manage to right the ship.

The funny thing is that I also played a lot of daily games of chess and went 16-3-1, gaining almost 100 rating points. So given a bit more time to plan out moves I am finding that I stop blundering pieces and actually play principled chess. But those 10 minute rapid games just cause me to crack and more often than not I end up hanging a knight or a bishop or sometimes even a rook.

And so we are right back to where we were last month where I really don't know what to do. I know that watching more YouTube videos, analyzing more games, studying more openings is suppose to help improve my game but I don't know what I am suppose to be striving for next. I thought that goal of a 900 rating was going to motivate me but it seemed to have the exact opposite feeling. So maybe I just gotta aim to play like 100 games in July and focus on trying to make each game as good as possible and not worry about my rating.

Poor diet and exercise

OK first the good. I've been really diligent about fasting for 16+ hours and going for a 60+ minute walk every day. The bad is that those 8 hours where I am eating usually involves greasy takeout food and outside of those walks I don't do any other exercising. More greens, less grease, more yoga, more weights. I know this is what I must do. But my stupid lizard brain just keep saying "dude get an egg McMuffin" and I listen because I am weak.

Ori and the Blind Forest

I don't want to write too much about Ori and the Blind Forest other than I played it for a little over two hours and it doesn't seem to be my cup of tea. I think I've outgrown games where you only learn by dying and I did my fair share of it. To anyone who has played the game, after I finally escaped the rising flood of water I put down the controller and uninstalled the game because I knew I was not going to enjoy something that wasted my time like that.

E3 2021

I don't know what the purpose of E3 is anymore. I wrote about the games that excited me the most and the common thread was that I knew about almost every one of those games before E3. Gone are the days of massive, jaw-dropping reveals and surprise release dates. The majority of games shown this year aren't releasing until 2022 or later and the most shocking announcement was probably Metroid Dread or the Guardians of the Galaxy game.

Honourable Mentions

Monster Hunter Rise 3.0 Patch

I beat all of the content added in the Monster Hunter Rise 3.0 patch and while it was fun it barely kept my attention for maybe 10 hours. Nothing that was added was good enough to make me want to go back and continue playing the game. For the entirety of my 100 hour play-through I used the lance and I think that will be it. I'm sure I'll come back in a few months to play a few more hours for whatever little quests they add but not much more.

To be clear, playing an $80 game for 100 hours is a lot of entertainment and I'm not complaining about that. My concern is about my interest in the Monster Hunter franchise. Is it waning? Is there something the games are doing that is killing my interest? It isn't clear to me why Monster Hunter Rise isn't grabbing my attention like other games in the franchise have.

Review June Goals

July Goals

#MonthlyRetrospective

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