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October 2022 Retrospective

I don't think I'm out of line when I say that Jesus wishes he had my drone flying skills.

https://twitter.com/statuses/1579300322090315779

The Good

Season 1 of House of the Dragon

It's hard to believe that it was only a decade ago when Game of Thrones took the world by storm. Those first five seasons helped redefine what we could expect from a television show. It is also hard to believe that the final three seasons were so bad the entire show has essentially slipped into obscurity.

After three years HBO is hoping to resurrect interest in Westeros with the release of House of the Dragon and in my opinion they have succeeded.

While it may not change the world as its predecessor did, House of the Dragon follows dutifully in Game of Thrones footsteps and brings back the magic of those early seasons. The writing is on point. The set design is beautiful. The actors fit their roles wonderfully. All of that tension and political intrigue from people scheming their way around the Iron Throne is perfectly captured by House of the Dragon.

Accidentally started speedrunning Hitman 3

My love for Hitman continues to grow and this month I tried to complete various escalation contracts. One of them was "The Snorrason Ascension" and for whatever reason when I finished the final level I immediately though "I could do better". Several hours of grinding later I managed a 1 minute 49 second run which put me 10th overall in the world.

Read Red Notice

As someone with a passing interest in history, I had a tangential understanding of how the Russian oligarchs stole their nation's wealth when the USSR collapsed. But I had never really heard any first hand accounts until I read Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice. 90s Russia was so batshit insane that I can only imagine how much worse it has got in the new millennium.

I don't want to spoil anything about Red Notice so I'll just say that it is absolutely a book everyone should read, and it is especially apropos after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Read Into Thin Air

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster is one of the more bizarre books I have read. It is very well written and kept me thoroughly entertained. But it is basically a book about people committing suicide. You're reading about these expeditions of Mount Everest and almost every chapter has some element of "why are these morons doing this?"

I completely understand someone who would say they are not interested in reading about how numerous people ended up freezing to death at the top of the world. But as macabre as sounds, I would heartily recommend that you do read about that.

The Bad

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II (2022)

Back in 2019 someone at Infinity War somehow got the go ahead from Activision to actually spend some time and money on a Call of Duty campaign. This resulted in the Modern Warfare reboot whose graphics, level design, writing, and voice acting, somehow exceed our expectations. Maybe we were finally turning a page and Call of Duty campaigns were headed for some sort of renaissance. But then the battle royale genre got popular...

Before I shit on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II I really want to give much deserved praise to the graphics, both real-time and cinematics. This is one of the prettiest video games I have ever played and ray racing wasn't even enabled. The engineers working on the IW engine are absolutely killing it.

Unfortunately the graphics are where my praise ends. Everything else has regressed from the 2019 reboot. The writing is your standard "Hooah" military crap you'd expect from a direct-to-video action movie (or multimillion dollar Amazon Prime TV show). The actors do what they can but the horrendous script isn't salvageable (if I have to hear one more white dude refer to a Mexican solider as "hermano" I am going to scream). Combined with the frustrating gameplay and poor level design, you can tell that Modern Warfare II did not get the same attention as its predecessor.

There are "only" 17 levels in Modern Warfare II. Three of them are essentially interactive cutscenes (very pretty cutscenes to be sure). Two of them are gunship missions (which are the most entertaining in my opinion). Four of them exist strictly to showcase Warzone game mechanics (crafting, stealth, vehicles) and all of them were tedious and frustrating. That leaves eight "normal" Call of Duty Missions which were a mixed bag. Outside of the gunship missions I would say I probably only enjoyed two other levels and those were near the start the campaign.

I also encountered numerous game-breaking bugs. The funniest was in one of the Warzone levels where I need to chase someone in a truck. I managed to drive to the front of the caravan where the truck was suppose to be but either I was too fast or too slow and the truck was not there. My AI companions however continued to yell at me that the bad guys were going to get away and I needed to speed up. So I proceeded to drive around this Mario Kart style circuit for 10 minutes never again seeing another enemy vehicle. I finally said fuck and it just stopped dead in my tracks, my AI companions yelled at me, and the game finally told me I had failed and reloaded a checkpoint. Amazingly that checkpoint was broken as well so the only solution was to replay the entire level.

The most frustrating bug was that on multiple levels the game would crash to desktop if you died and attempted to reload certain checkpoints. The kicker was that even after restarting the game it would continue to crash if you tried to resume your save. So for multiple levels I had to make absolutely sure that I didn't die for certain segments of them or else I would have to restart the entire level.

It took me about eight hours to beat Modern Warfare II and I'd say that conservatively I only enjoyed two of them.

Apple Arcade

One of my New Year's Resolutions was to play 12 Apple Arcade games and as of the beginning of October I had only played four. So this month I hooked my PlayStation 5 controller to my Apple TV and tried to find some games that were supposedly good for the big screen. That lead me to Jetpack Joyride 2 and Shove Knight Dig.

My understanding is that Apple Arcade is suppose to allow game developers not to worry about building the usual mobile games that focus on increasing engagement and microtransactions. Theoretically we could return to the halcyon days where gameplay was king and you didn't have to worry about getting your users back every day so they could maybe throw you a couple more bucks. But bizarrely both of these games feel like they are setup so that microtransactions could be turned on at a moment's notice.

I played them both for about 90 minutes each and got to a point where it seemed like the only way forward was to grind for more in-game resources so my numbers could go up and I'd have enough to beat whatever enemies I was fighting. But at this point neither game had done anything particularly special to engage me so I simply deleted them. Why waste my time on a game when they obviously don't respect mine?

I still need to play six more Apple Arcade games to complete my resolution. So in November I am going to make a conscious effort to sniff out some of the diamond in the rough games that hopefully exist.

Honourable Mentions

The International 2022

After the last International I wrote that I had given up following Dota and so far all of 2022 I did not watch a single match. But that changed this month as I could not escape the allure of The International 2022. It was being held in Singapore which mean the matches started between 10pm and midnight EDT so I was usually only able to watch a game or two before bed.

Review October Goals

November Goals

#MonthlyRetrospective