Writer’s Confessional Part Eight

I’ve been writing again, after settling into my new business routine. It’s been a road of discovery as always with doing anything new.

Scrivener, a writing software program, is a part of this journey after I gave up on it a few years ago because the difficulty of using it was frustrating. The only reason I’m using it again is because of K.M. Weiland. On her website, she mentions she’s created a step by step outlining file in Scrivener. This outlining system created a more straightforward organizational system. My ideas took a more linear path. Instead of a meandering path like a pantser, someone writing by the seat of their pants, plot and characters have a more precise focus.

I’m so grateful the creative dance is a gentler one because I hate trying to figure out technology. I’m the person screaming at the computer screen when things aren’t going the way I want them to go regarding my writing. Especially when I used Scrivener years ago.

I think as I finalize this outline, I’ll have a much easier time writing my newest romance novel.

The Resident Evil 2 Remake Challenge

I play video games largely for fun, or as a means to blow off steam after a rough day at work. But I also occasionally challenge myself by trying to beat a particular title on the hardest difficulty setting. I’ve succeeded at some—Command and Conquer: Renegade & Fallout: New Vegas—while others—Resident Evil 7 & Neoquest 2 (from the Neopets website)—have eluded me. And I recently set my sights on a game I purchased earlier this year.

I first acquired and played the Resident Evil 2 remake back in February 2019, and I have gotten hours of enjoyment from the title and its associated mini-games. I have since been watching a number of gamers broadcasting their own playthroughs on Twitch. After several months of viewing others run through the grueling hardcore mode of the game, I decided to give it a go myself.

What makes this mode of the game so challenging is that every step through a monster-infested area could be your last. Each creature you encounter moves much faster in hardcore mode and most can kill you in 1-3 hits. And if you die, you must start over from the beginning of the game or from your last save.

I shared my plans with three video game streamers who I watch regularly—Silentkaster, Crazygamingdayz, and ISeeDeadKittensXO. The latter, Kittens, was the only one who had yet to get through this mode with the best grade—more on that later—but said he would if I managed to pull it off.

It took me about six hours to get through Claire’s campaign with 13 saves—about five hours and 15 saves for Leon’s. I didn’t have any ambitions beyond trying to get through both scenarios. I changed my mind when Kittens challenged me to run through it again, this time for a proverbial gold medal.

One staple of the Resident Evil games is that you’re graded on how well you do, ranging from E to S+. Generally, things like speed, accuracy, minimal saves, or number of enemies eliminated contribute to the score you get upon completion. To obtain the best possible grade in the Resident Evil 2 remake’s hardcore mode, you must get through it in under two and a half hours with no more than three saves.

I don’t know how many attempts I made overall, but it had to be at least a hundred. I chose to run through the Claire A scenario since that is the easiest of the four campaigns. Each failure made me more determined and helped me develop tactics to get through.

On my initial try at it, I saved the game just before the first boss fight. Going up against one of the toughest monsters in the game was a grueling experience. I tried a number of different tactics from pumping the creature full of lead to hacking away at it with a combat knife. I’m not sure which method ultimately worked because I kept failing over and over before I could get to my next savepoint.

Fortunately, I got in so much practice against the first boss that I decided to start over from the beginning—this time saving after the fight. I was just under the one hour mark at this point. From here, I had to decide whether or not I should grab a submachine gun on the other end of the police station from my location, or simply run for the next objective. I tried several times to grab the desired weapon before I ultimately decided it wasn’t worth the time or risk. There were certain steps I needed to take just to gain access to the SMG; some steps would put me in a situation that could get me killed.

I finally decided to just muddle through with the handgun and grenade launcher I already had and hope for the best. It took some doing, but I finally made it to my next savepoint in the sewers just prior to the second boss fight.

The second boss monster is perhaps the most difficult one in the game for me to get past—primarily because you have to fight it in the smallest self-contained area and have to use a crane to knock it off the platform to end the battle. Unfortunately, I kept getting killed after the few times I did win. I lost count of how many attempts I made to get through this fight intact.

My plan was to have my last save just prior to the back-to-back final boss fights in the game. But frustration from having to do the second battle over and over made me change my mind. Another contributing factor was that my character was in very poor health at the start of the greenhouse area—the most dangerous location in the game. I feared getting killed and having to repeat the previous fight again, so I saved at a less than optimal point. It also meant I couldn’t save any more if I wanted to obtain the best grade.

I should also note that I could have picked up an electricity-based weapon in the sewers that would have helped me out here, but I didn’t have space for it in my inventory when I came across it. I had to rely on just the knife, handgun, and grenade launcher—mostly—to help me get through to the end.

Through all of this, I’d been keeping Crazygamingdayz, Silentkaster, and Kittens updated on my progress. Kittens was so impressed that I made it so far and stood such a good chance of winning that he decided to go for it himself. Ironically, he completed the hardcore mode with an S+ rank before I did!

I ran through the greenhouse section so many times that I became a veritable expert at it—I even joked to several friends that I could do it in my sleep. I did make some really dumb mistakes at times though. For instance, I found that throwing a flash grenade in a room of immobile zombies will cause them all to get up at once. This really backfired when I mistakenly threw one in a stairwell and the zombie in the room at the top of the stairs came down and caught me unawares.

After multiple tries, it was very satisfying to finally triumph over the final monster in the game—especially since I was considering starting the game over from scratch to conserve more ammo than I had. I was given access to a mini-gun just before the fight, but there were several attempts that ended in failure because I ran completely out of ammo. I solved this problem by being stingier with my firearms in the second-to-last battle. And it took me 2 hours and 15 minutes to get through it.

Successfully completing this mode with the best grade unlocked both a mini-gun and rapid-fire SMG for use throughout the game, both with infinite ammo. While either would make running through any campaign on any difficulty more of a breeze, I’m still aiming to get through Leon’s campaign on hardcore with an S+ rank, which can’t be achieved if I use these weapons. Winning at this scenario would net me an infinite-ammo rocket launcher.

Leon’s campaign is more challenging than Claire’s because you are being pursued by a near-unkillable monster at certain points throughout. The most you can hope for is to temporarily disable this creature to keep it from chasing you, if not outrun it.

It may take me just as much time and effort to get through Leon’s side of the story as it did with Claire’s. But given that I’ve made it about halfway while only saving once, I know I stand a very good chance.

Leaf Peepers

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” St. Augustine

My husband, Roger, and I enjoy seeing natures’ beauty whenever we can. We decided to see the fall foliage in the six New England states where I heard it is magnificent.

During the first week of October a few years ago, we traveled to New York and the six New England states during one fall foliage season. People who invade these states at that time are called “leaf peepers” by the locals.

The hardwood trees in northernmost Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont start to change in early to mid-September. Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island begin to change soon afterward. The peak leaf peeper season usually happens during the first two weeks of October. Our timing of this adventure was perfect. The millions of beautiful red, orange, gold, yellow, and purple leaves among the evergreen trees didn’t disappoint us.

We previously traveled to Vermont and New Hampshire together, but this time we wanted to visit these states on the same trip. What better time than during the lush fall foliage season?

We left Michigan taking the bridge into Canada and spent the night in Ontario near Thousand Islands. We had a full breakfast at a restaurant overlooking the St Lawrence River. Refreshed, we continued to our scheduled stop in Vermont where Roger has family members. We took pictures of the colorful hillsides, rustic barns, crossed one of the few remaining old-fashioned covered wood bridges, and picked fruit at an apple orchard. His sister baked a scrumptious pie for us using the fresh raspberries we picked at a raspberry farm. We also ate decadent maple syrup ice cream at Roger’s favorite Vermont ice cream stand.

Our four star-filled nights in Vermont were followed by a short stay in New Hampshire where Roger has family. We played on a beautiful leaf-covered golf course and lost a number of golf balls under piles of colorful leaves. We made several stops to take pictures of the awesome pallet of natures’ colors. After eating dinner with his family and spending the night, we headed for Maine. 

After a long drive over winding roads, past colorful hillsides, we parked at a tourist spot south of Kennebunkport, Maine. Before shopping for souvenirs, we decided to walk on the beautiful sandy beach right into the Atlantic Ocean and I immediately jumped back out. The waters off the shores of Maine were way too cold for me to take a real dip in the waters. At least I could say I got in the Atlantic Ocean for the first time. Our souvenir shopping included t-shirts and postcards for our grandchildren and a magnet of the state of Maine for ourselves.

Following a lunch of fresh seafood, we drove through Massachusetts enjoying the lovely foliage on our way to Providence, Rhode Island for an overnight stay. From there we stopped in Connecticut for lunch. After driving around New London, we headed up through Hartford, Connecticut to Springfield, Massachusetts where we turned west onto I-90 which took us through Albany, New York on our way to Niagara Falls just north of Buffalo. We saw Niagara Falls from both the American and Canadian sides. Colorful lighting enhanced the American view of the awesome cascading waters. We stayed one night in Niagara Falls before heading back home by way of Canada.

Once we left Vermont, we covered the remaining New England states and New York in four days. New England is not an expansive area. This trip helped us fill our magnetic map of the United States.

How many states have you visited?

Office Nerd #7

Upcoming Games of Interest 2019

As much as I love the many video games I currently own, I also love hearing of new games in development with stories or gameplay elements that pique my interest. This year’s annual game press release conference, E3, was no exception.

This first peek at titles in development allowed me a glimpse at several that intrigued me and which I may consider purchasing in the months to come. I am also including some titles that have been seen at past E3 conferences but haven’t been released yet.

Below is my list of six video games in development I look forward to playing.

1) Death Stranding – A title that was first announced at E3 2017, Death Stranding is a game heavily shrouded in mystery. Not much has been revealed about the plot and what little has been seen in the trailers is open to interpretation. What I do know is that Death Stranding takes place on either a post-apocalyptic Earth or an alien world, where mankind struggles to survive against giant malevolent entities. The game also features actor Norman Reedus (from the TV show Walking Dead), whose likeness has been replicated through facial and motion capture technology, as the main character. I look forward to discovering more about the game as its release date gets closer, but I like what I’ve seen so far.

2) Cyberpunk 2077 – An upcoming sci-fi title that centers around a courier with a cybernetic implant, Cyberpunk 2077 tells the story of a man on the run after his clients turned on him. While all that’s been seen so far is the game’s opening cinematics, I find the premise interesting. Even better, one of the central characters is being portrayed by actor Keanu Reeves. Granted, I’ve seen films that have a similar plot, but I look forward to experiencing such a story firsthand.

3) Final Fantasy VII remake – I only recently started playing the original version of Final Fantasy VII, but I’ve known for some time that there was a remake in development. This year’s E3 presented the first trailer\gameplay footage for the upcoming title—it looks absolutely gorgeous. It’s fantastic to see the much-loved classic of the Final Fantasy series reimagined in high definition with superior graphics. The story will likely remain the same—rumor has it that the remake will be divided into two or more games to account for everything from the original. It will be fascinating to see this small band of freedom fighters battling against an evil corporation in a realistic 3D environment.

4) The Sinking City – An upcoming mystery horror game that takes inspiration from the works of H.P. Lovecraft, The Sinking City looks to be a title in which you must play through the same period of time over and over to avoid getting killed. I don’t know too much at this point what it’s about and I’ve seen conflicting release dates for it—the game will come out either this year or in 2020. But I look forward to it all the same.

5) Elder Scrolls VI Elder Scrolls is a series that takes place in the large fictional medieval realm of Tamriel, and each title takes place in a different province of the massive world. I didn’t start playing the Elder Scrolls games until the release of the fifth one, Skyrim, in 2011. I have since devoted at least 300 hours total to the franchise. I loved Skyrim so much that I anxiously awaited news of a follow-up. I got my wish last year at E3 2018, though all that was revealed was a brief shot of a mountainous landscape and the game’s title. There is no info yet about where it will take place, what the plot will be, or when it will be released. But if it’s anything like Skyrim, Elder Scrolls VI is a game I would love to dive right into.

6) Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 – I got hours of enjoyment from the first Ultimate Alliance game that allowed you to build a team from a large roster of Marvel superheroes. While I didn’t really play the 2nd game in the series—largely because I couldn’t figure out what button to press to demolish a statue in the first mission—I still very much love this series. I was ecstatic when I first heard there was a new title in development and that it will feature many characters from the recent Marvel superhero movies—Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, X-Men. The one downside—this new game will only be available on the Nintendo Switch, a device I don’t own. But I may consider investing in the Switch for the opportunity to play Ultimate Alliance 3 as well as a number of other titles.

I know there are many more titles in production right now, but I’m very selective about what I find interesting. If you would like to share an upcoming game that you’re anxious to play, please tell about it in the comments below.