The Infinite Zenith

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Battlefield 2042: Celebrating 1500 Posts, Becoming A Master of Arms Through Adaptive Design Choices and Regaining My Proficiency As A Marksman

“If you so choose, even the unexpected setbacks can bring new and positive possibilities. If you so choose, you can find value and fulfillment in every circumstance.” –Ralph Marston

After a solid first season of content, DICE has appeared to have righted the ship – their new map has proven to be a hit in accommodating all play-styles, and the new weapons were fun. While content has come at a glacial pace, what has arrived has been enjoyable, and DICE’s has several updates announced. With plans for returning the specialists into class-based roles based on their gadget choices, along with to rework the existing maps so they have more extensive cover, Battlefield 2042 is slowly inching back to a state that players had been expecting since the game’s launch almost a year ago. While the hour is late for DICE, since Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II is releasing in October, the improvements made to the game so far and those that are on the horizon has meant that, together with the seasonal unlocks, Battlefield 2042 has offered players with the incentive of returning again. I had not expected to put any time into Battlefield 2042‘s multiplayer proper, but over the past few months, I’ve found myself returning; although my reflexes aren’t what they used to be, and my map and weapon knowledge nowhere near what it’d be if I play with the same frequency I did a few years earlier, I am finding that I am having fun in the matches I join. The latest map to join the Battlefield 2042 rotation is Stranded. Set in the Panama Canal, this map consists of plains and hilly ground surrounding a derelict cargo ship whose cavernous interior is open for exploration. The map’s design is such that there are areas to accommodate all play styles. Inside the container ship, the narrow quarters mean that submachine guns and shotguns dominate, whereas outside, sniper rifles and marksman rifles are effective. Vehicles and zip-lines allow players to traverse the map easily, and the variety of environments mean that combat is varied and ever-changing, demanding that players be familiar with both close quarters and long range tactics in order to be successful. The variety of combat options available to players on Stranded has proven to be remarkably entertaining, and like Exposure, provided hours of enjoyment. Overall, Battlefield 2042 is gradually returning to a state where it is fun again, and with the multiplayer enticing me to return to the game, I’ve now amassed about ninety-two hours of time in the game. I had not expected to partake in PvP again, but one element in Battlefield 2042 has made this experience significantly more enjoyable – the fact that I am able to unlock attachments for weapons in the solo mode.

While Battlefield 2042 may have altered the core mechanics behind its class system, suffered from performance issues and started players with poorly-designed maps, the one aspect that Battlefield 2042 has been a front-runner in is its solo mode. In this area, Battlefield 2042 has demonstrated exemplary innovation, providing a full-scale environment for one to test new weapons and attachments. Previously, Battlefield had only given players a firing range to test recoil patterns on weapons one had already unlocked, and so, when one decided to make the switch from their preferred weapons to try something new, they would always start with the base weapon and no attachments. This left one out of their element, and at a distinct disadvantage in a firefight, especially if one were going against players who were using weapons that were customised precisely to their liking. This makes it difficult to find the motivation to use newly unlocked weapons and get a feel for them. Conversely, here in Battlefield 2042, the fact that one can play full matches against AI bots on maps means having the chance to learn how a weapon handles in a practical situation against foes that offer a reasonable idea of how said weapons might perform against live foes in PvP. Moreover, because one can actually unlock attachments for their weapons in solo mode, it is possible to kit one’s weapon out and determine what attachments best suits one’s style well before one ever sets foot in a live match. In this way, I was able to unlock enough of a given weapon’s attachments and learn about them before ever going against human players. The end result of this was that, when I did end up returning to Battlefield 2042 for Exposure and Stranded, I already had a loadout I was comfortable with using. As such, when playing against people on a live server, I never once felt as though my loadout was putting me on the backfoot, and ultimately, irrespective of whether or not I won a match, I ended up having fun exploring the map and blasting foes with the tools available to me. This has contributed greatly to my enjoyment of Battlefield 2042, and looking ahead, I am of the mind that the solo mode in Battlefield 2042 should be a feature that future titles incorporate into things.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Before going any further, I will stop to mention here that this is my 1500th post, speaking to the amount of time I’ve been writing for. If memory serves, the last time I hit a milestone would’ve been when I hit 1000 posts back in October 2018. The last time I wrote about Battlefield 2042, it would’ve been late June. Back then, Season One was getting started, and I remember having a fantastic time on the map. The biggest reason I was able to suddenly jump into a PvP environment was because by then, I’d already had all the weapons unlocked, along with a sizeable collection of attachments.

  • Prior to the first season, my older machine struggled to run Battlefield 2042, so I mostly spent my time on the solo servers. While experience here is capped, and ribbons can’t be earned, every kill still contribute to a weapon’s usage. Stranded allows for medium and long range combat outdoors, but inside the derelict cargo ship, narrow corridors and chokepoints make it an excellent place for folks running close quarters weapons. At this point in time, DICE still hasn’t applied any updates towards how specialists work yet, so for the time being, it’s still possible for players to customise their loadouts completely. I typically go with Angel because of his ability to drop loadout crates, which allow me to change roles at will.

  • Updates in the future are supposed to constrain gadgets to specific specialists, although at present, I’ve not heard of any plans to constrain weapon types to certain specialists. While the current situation in Battlefield 2042 doesn’t affect my ability to contribute to my team, I have noticed that running Angel means I can operate fairly independently of other players, which defeats the purpose of teamwork. Similarly, if I can switch out my weapons at will, I’m much less reliant on teammates and therefore won’t rely on them as much. This has resulted in players opting to play the game without a thought for teamwork: revives, resupplies, repairs and heals are much rarer than they’d been in earlier titles.

  • Limiting certain specialists to specific gadgets and weapon types is, on paper, all that’s needed to bring Battlefield 2042‘s class system back: specialists are simply a more evolved version of the archetypes Battlefield V introduced, and since every specialist has a dedicated ability, one could make the case that with gadget and weapon constraints, specialists would actually increase team play, since players now are limited to only one gadget that lets them to fulfil a team role, and therefore must depend on other players for support.

  • Battlefield 2042‘s latest updates introduces statistics to the game, and while I’m a little disappointed that the more interesting measures, like longest headshot, no longer appear, the game does give some insight into how one is doing. At the time of writing, I’ve got a 53 percent win rate and a KDR of 0.76 – I’m certainly not a skillful player by any means, as I only play for fun. In Battlefield V and Battlefield 1, I put in a little more effort towards improving because I had significantly more time to play, but I also remember how things were more stressful in the earlier titles because time-limited unlocks could only be done in live multiplayer matches.

  • Conversely, here in Battlefield 2042, I’m not particularly worried about staying alive long enough to complete my assignments because, if I should miss them, there will be a chance to re-attempt things in a solo server. In this way, I’m able to focus purely on having fun whenever I come online for a match of Battlefield 2042 and not worry too much about my individual performance in a game. KDR to me matters less than helping my teammates out, and I frequently top the scoreboards because I make liberal use the tools available to me beyond my primary weapon.

  • Rather than focusing on kills alone, I do my best to ensure my teammates have enough health and ammo to survive firefights, know where their foes are and bring them back into a fight when safe to do so. This approach has helped my team to victory on several occasions and allowed me to complete assignments asking players to win a certain number of matches. However, I am able to hold my own in firefights where appropriate: playing solo mode has allowed me to learn all of the weapons well enough to choose what works best for me, in addition to providing access to enough attachments to make life easier.

  • Now that I’ve got a GPU capable of real-time ray-tracing, I’ve elected to max all of my settings out and turn ray-tracing on for Battlefield 2042: serious players will set everything to low and disable all of the fancy features to get as many frames as possible, but for me, playing on full settings means getting the best immersion into the game. Here, I notice the reflection of the red cargo containers on my weapon: the K30 is the Kriss Vector, and it’s the fastest firing submachine gun in Battlefield 2042. It was fun to watch the reflections change in response to where I was on the map.

  • As a submachine gun, the K30 excels in mowing down opponents at close range and in exchange, is ineffective at longer ranges. Of the submachine guns in Battlefield 2042, I’m most comfortable with the K30 and MP9: they’re reliable weapons for short-range battles and maintain high accuracy when hip-fired. The deck of the cargo container is an excellent place to use submachine guns, and in live matches, this is a hotly-contested location because the deck offers unparalleled vantage points of the entire map.

  • The team that controls the Charlie capture point can actually get to the ship’s upper decks and gain a considerable advantage as a sniper. I’ve enjoyed control of this position on several occasions, enough to make use of the DXR-1 to pick off foes from the control points below. This is the best long-range rifle in the game bar none at the time of writing, and I’ve unlocked the 10x optic for it, allowing me to place my shots with confidence. Since Battlefield 2042‘s bolt-action rifles all have straight-pull bolts by default, it makes it easy to see how much I need to adjust my aim by if I miss my first shot.

  • Making use of the proximity sensor by chucking one into a heavily populated area will automatically spot everyone, and any teammates will also be able to see them. If teammates then score a kill against a spotted foe, one will receive experience points equivalent to getting a kill. This is a trick I picked up off Battlefield YouTubers: while I’m ambivalent about streamers, there are a handful of people I greatly respect. MrProWestie, LevelCap, JackFrags and TheRadBrad are my favourite gaming personalities, offering a balance of useful and informative content that is simultaneously humourous.

  • The main thing about these YouTubers is that their videos are genuinely helpful. Whether it’s the points of feedback MrProWestie provides for Battlefield, loadout suggestions from JackFrags, general news from LevelCap, or TheRadBrad’s approach for levels I may get stuck in, watching their videos aids me in improving my game. This is what I look for in online streamers; anyone who consistently provide useful information is worth my while. I don’t watch YouTubers or streamers for their personalities alone, but rather, how well they can deliver what I came for.

  • While I typically don’t watch streamers, the reason why TheRadBrad, LevelCap, MrProWestie and JackFrags are engaging enough for me to make an exception because, after watching their videos, there’s an incentive to try out something they’ve suggested, and I’ve done several things during my time in Battlefield that were directly inspired by some of their videos. My favourite two include camping at the end of Hamada with dynamite and a panzerfaust from JackFrags’ “How to have fun in Battlefield 5” video, and LevelCap’s “I BOMBED a Bomber!” (also in Battlefield V).

  • The relative lack of content in Battlefield 2042 means that my favourite YouTubers have gone on to play other games like Call of Duty: Warzone, and it is in part for this reason that I’m now following developments on Modern Warfare II – while I have no intention of playing Warzone IIModern Warfare II itself looks exceptional, and I’m quite excited to see how this one unfolds. If the launch is solid, I do see myself picking up and playing Modern Warfare II shortly after. Hardware is no longer a challenge, so whether or not I’ll pull the trigger on Modern Warfare II is going to be dictated by how engaging the campaign looks, and how stable the game is.

  • Back in Battlefield 2042, the benefit of throwing a proximity sensor and collecting assists is apparent to me, giving me a chance to contribute to my team’s efforts. When I first began the Master of Arms season, I was losing every match I played. I’ve never been a deft hand in getting kills, but my enjoyment of Battlefield 2042 comes from utilising every tool in the arsenal to score points. In many matches, I end up in the top quartile of players simply by reviving, resupplying, healing and spotting for teammates, and even if my KDR is negative for that match, I’ll have a good time anyways.

  • With this in mind, I do get the occasional kill here and there: here, I pick off a foe shortly after my team’s captured the second sector during a round of Breakthrough. Of the two biggest modes in Battlefield 2042, Breakthrough is one I especially enjoy because of how it clusters players together into small areas. In the chaos, it can be a great place for reviving, healing and resupplying entire squads, as well as spotting groups of enemies. On the flipside, Conquest is better for vehicle-oriented goals and sandbox moments. I enjoy both modes, as both offer a different way to play.

  • When it comes to sniping, being a defender on Breakthrough offers one of the most action-packed environments for sniping. By this point in time, I’ve unlocked the 10x scope for the DXR-1, and its reticule is among the cleanest of the high-magnification optics, making it easy to keep track of one’s target even as they’re moving. While I do have a holographic sight and an 8x scope as well, I’ve found that, at least for the sniper rifles, I rarely need to utilise the + system in order to change out the attachments because they’re so specialised that I’ll stay far away from the frontlines.

  • Here, I’ve unlocked the AM40: this assault rifle is based off the Avtomat Malogabaritnyj Model 17, which was unveiled by Kalashnikov Concern in 2017 and is intended to replace the AKS-74U as a close-quarters rifle. Five years since its introduction, the AM-17 has seen limited use and isn’t quite ready for widespread service yet. Battlefields 2042‘s implementation of the AM-17 places the AM40 as a cross between an assault rifle and submachine gun, giving it a high rate of fire best suited for closer-range engagements.

  • Initially, the base AM40 is is stymied by its small magazine size: players begin their journey with a twenty-one round high powered magazine, which allows the weapon to reach out a little further than if standard rounds were used. To gain a feel for the weapon, I ended up playing a few rounds in solo mode and became comfortable with using the AM40 to take on a small number of foes before ducking behind cover to reload. The iron sights on the AM40 are reasonably clear, but since the K8 holographic sight is unlocked after a mere five kills, I swapped over to that immediately.

  • The AM40’s presence in Battlefield 2042 is in keeping with how the other weapons handle: the + system means that most assault rifles can be tuned for longer range or shorter range combat, and while the other rifles can be changed into a makeshift marksman rifle, the AM40 can be transformed into a makeshift submachine gun in a pinch. The idea of being able to change one’s roles on such short notice actually was probably meant to mirror how specialists can equip any gadget of their choosing and maximise versatility. While this is a great idea for single-player games, the whole point of multiplayer is to work as a team. As such, I would argue that making gadgets and weapons class-specific, but then retaining the + system would strike a balance between flexibility and encouraging specific roles for team play.

  • One unusual behaviour I noticed since Master of Arms began was the fact that attachments would sometimes “freeze” for the AM40. For instance, if I reached 120 kills and unlocked the TV 2x optic, that optic would actually be unavailable for selection and still show as locked. It would then become unlocked after I left my current game and then hit the next unlock tier, after which all of the previously locked attachments would unlock. If this is a bug, one hopes that DICE would rectify this: it’s not a game-breaker, but it is a bit of a nuisance.

  • While the NTW-50 is the last weapon unlocked in Battlefield 2042, it is highly situational and only really useful in certain scenarios. Originally, the weapon had been quite effective at damaging vehicles (three shots could destroy hovercrafts and the LATV4 Recon), but DICE quickly made a patch to reduce its power. Being an anti-materiel weapon, the NTW-50 remains somewhat effective at damaging vehicle parts and can one-shot soldiers at close range, but its slow rate of fire and low muzzle velocity makes it ill-suited for most combat encounters.

  • Here, I rush capture point echo, located on the eastern edge of the map near the Russian deployment, with the PKP-BP. Until the Avancys was introduced, this was the only other light machine gun available to players besides the LCMG, and I’ve found the PKP-BP to be my preferred LMG of choice when locking down control points owing to its higher firing rate and starting capacity. This weapon is powerful enough so that a single player with one can lock down a choke point on their own, and its recoil is manageable, allowing it to be useful in a range of situations.

  • I still recall how the K30 was the last unlock in Battlefield 2042‘s open beta, and here, I managed to get the jump on two players who were camping on the tower south of the ship. I had enough ammunition to deal with two of the three players, but the last player caught on, and as I fumbled with the revolver, said player sent me back to the spawn screen.

  • Here, I defend capture point bravo in the final few moments of a losing match: an uncivilised and unskilled player on my team, Peskoly, spent the entire match spamming the text chats with complaints about how my team wasn’t doing enough to keep him alive while he flew. I therefore found it unsurprising that Peskoly didn’t even make it onto the scoreboard, whereas I ended up in the top ten by the time the match ended (despite joining later). When the match ended, the remainder of my teammates laid the blame on Peskoly for single-handedly costing everyone the match.

  • It does feel strange that Battlefield 2042‘s team chat only allows one to communicate with their team, whereas in previous titles, one could also message players on the other team. While this does make sense from a team perspective, one of my strategies in older Battlefield titles was to call out anyone who had killed me via camping as cheater, and this always would rile that player up so much they’d abandon the objective and team play to go after me. In a given match, if I could do this to two or three of their players, it actually created enough of a distraction so my team could make a comeback. I consider camping the height of dishonour, and have never felt guilty about using such a tactic to even things out.

  • With the text chat now limited to my team only, such a method is no longer viable. With this being said, Battlefield 2042 has been much better in that I’ve not encountered any cheats in the PvP matches I’ve played. Having said this, I retain an enjoyment of getting back at people who get lucky kills on me through camping, and here, I land a headshot on one ItsPandaMan within seconds of respawning after they’d gotten me earlier by camping: although “hackusations” are funny to sling around, there’s no substitute for headshotting a camper.

  • During the course of Master of Arms, I became much more comfortable with operating the bolt action rifles, and during my time on Stranded, I became moderately proficient with the DXR-1 to the point where I was able to score a headshots from around 330 metres away here on one Amniesa. It is a shame that Battlefield 2042 doesn’t keep track of one’s best headshot distance: while I’m not a fantastic marksman by any stretch, it is fun to see if I can score long-distance shots in a given title. In Battlefield V, my record was 356 metres, and in Battlefield 1, I managed to get a headshot from 383 metres on Sinai Desert towards the end of my time there.

  • A 330 metre headshot is not close to my old records, but this does show that I’m slowly getting used to the mechanics of Battlefield 2042. To estimate headshot distance, I used the spotting marker: I roughly know where my foes were located and where I placed my shot, so making the estimate wasn’t too tricky. By this point in time, I’ve become quite at home with using Battlefield 2042‘s bolt-action rifles and would hope that a few more are added to the game in the future, along with some FLIR optics so players can see through the smoke – since smoke grenades were added to the game, players have used them liberally to cover their position and make it difficult to aim, so adding a countermeasure for this would help with strategy.

  • I’ll round this post off with a moment of me using the PF51, a machine-pistol modelled after the Kel-Tec P50 and is designed to use the same magazines as the FN P90. With a fifty round magazine, this weapon is the perfect secondary weapon for marksmen, as it provides an automatic option for situations where one gets into a close-quarters confrontation. At the time of writing, I’ve yet to unlock the Avancys, but three weeks into the second season, I’ve made reasonable progress and more importantly, I’m having fun in Battlefield 2042.

Battlefield 2042‘s implementation of solo modes and AI bots, as well as how the unlocks earned here carry over into the PvP modes, allow players to approach the game at their own pace. Unlocks are no longer dependent on spending a large amount of time in PvP, making this ideal for folks who don’t have a considerable amount of time to spend on keeping up-to-date with their gaming. Multiplayer games are typically designed for folks whose schedules do not include housework and other day-to-day tasks to tend to – they involve a nontrivial time commitment, making it trickier to keep up with weekly assignments and unlocks. For instance, last season, I ended up missing out on the Ghostmaker R10. However, Battlefield 2042‘s implementation of unlocks allows me to earn the crossbow by means of completing an assignment. Earning twenty-five headshots and three takedown kills is what this assignment entails. While takedown kills are rather difficult to perform, any takedowns carried out in solo mode do count towards the total. This means that I am able to earn the crossbow even though I’d missed the original window. This approach is excellent for people like myself, and while Battlefield 2042 may have noticeable shortcomings, its approach towards unlocks is exemplary. In fact, besides suggesting that future Battlefield games would benefit from such a system, I argue that Call of Duty would also find this approach viable. Call of Duty games have always excelled in providing AI bots, but here, all of the weapons are already unlocked for players to experiment with. Unlocks for use in PvP can only be earned in live matches, and this can make it tricky to rank up new weapons, especially if one is playing against skilled players. This is why feel little incentive to play Modern Warfare‘s multiplayer mode in PvP even though the AI bots have proven fun – I only have the starting weapons available to me, and the competitive atmosphere means playing against humans can be quite stressful. Conversely, if the upcoming Modern Warfare II allows players to rank up weapons families in both PvP modes and against AI bots, it would offer busier players with more flexibility in how they wish to play the game. Call of Duty presently has the upper hand over Battlefield, but Battlefield hasn’t struck out completely – while Battlefield 2042 may have its limitations, allowing progress to be shared between private matches and PvP is the one area where Activision would do well to take a leaf from DICE’s book.

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands: The Dynames Loadout and Reflections on Retiring a Workhorse GPU

“Skills are skills; the same way tools are tools. How they are used defines the user, not the tools.” –Megan Derr

Folks familiar with Gundam 00 will remember the Dynames, one of the lead Gundams that was equipped for long-range anti mobile suit combat: the Dynames carries a GN Sniper Rifle and in Gundam 00, pilot Lockon Stratos utilises it to provide fire support at range, disabling and destroying mobile suits from such distances that return fire is not feasible. For close-quarters combat, the Dynames also carried a pair of GN Beam Pistols – these had a much higher rate of fire than the GN Sniper Rifle, and despite being significantly less powerful on a per-shot basis, could still deal serious damage to enemy mobile suits. Owing to its loadout and specialisation towards a marksman role, the Dynames remains a fan-favourite: the Dynames’ weapons are most faithful to loadouts that can be equipped in contemporary titles, and in Ghost Recon Wildlands, players can mirror the Dynames loadout by carrying a sniper rifle into combat with any pistol. Because Wildlands is a game of stealth and patience, the sniper rifle becomes the single most important tool in any player’s loadout: one can use these rifles in conjunction with a suppressor to pick off foes from extreme distances and whittle down the size of an enemy force guarding points of interest with only a low risk for retaliation, or target things like alarm towers and take them offline to prevent foes from calling in reinforcements. However, similarly to the Dynames’ handling characteristics, sniper rifles take a modicum of skill to use, and in Wildlands, sniper rounds are impacted by bullet drop. To make the most of these precision tools requires patience and familiarity with a rifle’s characteristics, but at the same time, folks willing to master their rifles will find an incredibly versatile and powerful tool for clearing out entire areas without being spotted, making easier to complete objectives and fade back into the shadows as Ghosts are wont to doing.

Having spent most of my time in Wildlands with the M40A5, I found a tool that was quite tricky to use – players can find the M40A5 early on and immediately gain access to a solid long-range option, but players do not have access to the higher magnification optics, which limits the weapon’s utility. Further to this, because bullet drop is quite pronounced, it may take beginners time to acclimatise, and the M40A5’s bolt-action mechanism means that the weapon is very unforgiving when it comes to missed shots. To be a sniper is to invest effort into learning the weapon’s traits and positioning oneself so some of the weapon’s shortcomings can be mitigated. However, the payoff for learning the techniques behind being a good marksman is enormous – a good sniper can eliminate threats that can result in a much less desirable direct firefight, and getting used to the M40A5’s traits provides one with an instructive experience, one that carries over to Wildlands‘ other sniper rifles. As one acquires more sniper rifles, the course of Wildlands changes: faster-firing semi-automatic rifles are effective for engaging multiple targets sequentially, while the bolt-action rifles provide exceptional stopping power that make them useful against armoured foes and materiel. Of note are Wildlands‘ 50-calibre rifles, which are so powerful, they can one-shot vehicles, and of these rifles, I’ve unlocked the BFG-50A as a result of having made the decision to pick up the Fallen Ghosts DLC a few weeks earlier, when the package went on sale for six dollars (down from its usual twenty). The BFG-50A comes with all of its attachments and optics unlocked, so the problem of needing a dedicated high-magnification optic evaporates, and because the BFG-50A is semi-automatic, it is more forgiving of missed shots compared to the M40A5. With its fifty calibre rounds, high power scope and an increased rate of fire, the BFG-50A has completely altered the way I approach situations in Wildlands. I can destroy alarm boxes from a great distance and not worry about reinforcements showing up, and if things become a little too heated, I can blow Unidad and Santa Blanca helicopters out of the sky trivially. In this way, Wildlands now feels completely different: while skill and experience are doubtlessly essentials, having improved equipment cannot be understated. Many missions that would’ve felt intimidating now feel more straightforward, and while I take great pride in completing my assignments with what is available to me, both in games and reality, I will not deny the joys of having access to better gear.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • This post on Wildlands is the last one where I’ll be using the venerable GTX 1060 to capture my screenshots: this video card had been an incredible deal and offered superb value for its price tag. When it released, the GTX 1060 traded with the GTX 980 for half the price. I still remember having some difficulty in procuring one – the card was released in July 2016, and I ended up picking one up in late August. However, compared to the situation in the present day, things back in 2016 were a little more straightforward, and I still remember giving DOOM and Battlefield 4 a spin, being impressed to find that I was able to maintain very smooth framerates even with everything maxed out.

  • When I built my current desktop back in March, I decided to go without a video card and reused the GTX 1060: it still performs just fine, although there are definitely situations now where the frame rates begin dropping. My decision to pick up the RTX 3060 Ti was motivated largely by the fact that my local computer store was doing a sale on the MSI Gaming X card: the card ordinarily retails for 730 CAD, but on that one day, it was going for 110 dollars off, dropping the price down to 620 CAD. This puts it the closest to the MSRP I’ve seen since the card launched, and after weighing my options, I felt that the card would be more than adequate for my requirements.

  • The decision was also based on answering the problem of whether or not I’d pick up a perfectly suitable upgrade now, with a known price, power draw and certain availability, versus waiting for the RTX 4060, a more powerful card that is rumoured to draw up to 230 Watts when under load, but supposedly only offers marginal gains over the RTX 3060 Ti. Between the (speculated) underwhelming performance for a video card of its class, coupled with unknown availability and prices, I felt it wiser to hedge my bets on the RTX 3060 Ti. Thus, I ended up picking the MSI Gaming X RTX 3060 Ti up last Wednesday, and the next day, the price had increased to 650 CAD.

  • This left me immensely grateful to have caught wind of the deal when I did, and with this acquisition, my new PC build is fully completed and ready to shine, just in time for winter. Over the past summer, I’ve spent a great deal of time capitalising on the long days to explore and enjoy culinary experiences that were unavailable for the past two years, but as the summer gives way to autumn, and then winter, I will be spending more time inside to escape the frigid Canadian winter. Although I enjoy the outdoors very much, when the thermometer dips below -40ºC with windchill, I prefer unwinding with a good virtual experience.

  • Contributing in part to the swiftness of my decision was the fact that I had read extensively on video cards within my budget and performance expectations, so when the flash sale came, I could pull the trigger quickly. With the RTX 3060 Ti, I am confident this new machine will gracefully handle what I have to throw at it, including the upcoming Modern Warfare II title, and in a rare moment, I also will remark here, with a degree of smugness, that my completed PC is about thirty percent more powerful than that of Awkventurer’s while at the same time, costing a third less.

  • Awkventurer is a travel influencer and streamer who produces solid content, but had taken to Reddit to ask for suggestions when building a new machine. At Reddit, Millillion offered incomplete advice and failed to account for Awkventurer’s use cases, resulting in a machine that is about four hundred dollars more costly than what she’d intended to use it for. While Millillion’s seventy-six thousand points of karma look impressive, and Millillion spends hours every day answering questions, I feel duty-bound to reiterate that there is no substitute for expertise and experience – had Awkventurer asked me for help rather than Millillion, I would have landed on a build that would be more cost effective without compromising performance.

  • Shortly before picking up the RTX 3060 Ti, I would end up buying the Fallen Ghosts DLC: it was clear that Wildlands was something I had come to enjoy greatly, and Fallen Ghosts adds a new campaign experience similarly to how Warlords of New York extended my enjoyment of The Division 2. When Fallen Ghosts went on sale for 70 percent off, the decision became an easy one; while I won’t likely go through the actual story missions until I finish Wildlands‘ main campaign, the DLC also gives me immediate access to two weapons which ended up changing how I play Wildlands at a fundamental level.

  • My immediate impressions were that Fallen Ghosts was worth it: right out of the gates, I gained access to the MDR and BFG-50A. The Desert Tech Micro Dynamic Rifle (MDR) is a classic with me, returning from The Division as an excellent assault rifle that has access to automatic fire, unlike its The Division counterpart, which only fires on semi-automatic. The MDR was a solid addition to my arsenal, and during my time with it, I found the MDR to be reliable as a marksman rifle for medium range engagements, as well as being versatile and manoeuvrable enough to switch over to automatic fire for close-quarters engagements if cover is blown.

  • In The Division, the MDR was an exotic assault rifle that was unique for only having a semi-automatic mode, and dealt bonus damage to enemies under a status effect. This made it a very situational weapon – the weapon was best paired with anything that burnt or bled foes, and I do remember the six-piece classified Firecrest set, with the Big Alejandro and the Intense talent, was quite effective with the MDR. However, I typically prefer to run with a six-piece classified Striker set with The House and Bullfrog. Wildlands‘ MDR is significantly more versatile and is useful in a much greater range of scenarios.

  • The real star of the show, however, is the BFG-50A. It’s the only semi-automatic anti-materiel rifle in the whole of Wildlands, and its recoil is only matched by its raw damage. Against personnel, the BFG-50A almost feels like overkill, with semi-automatic fire allowing one some wiggle room should they miss their first shot. However, it is against vehicles where the weapon truly shines: the BFG-50A is capable of destroying light vehicles and helicopters with a single shot even without the vehicle damage bonus, and I imagine that when fully upgraded, the BFG-50A will become the go-to solution for getting vehicles off my back.

  • I ended up marvelling at both the efficacy of my new toys in Wildlands and the power that the RTX 3060 Ti confers over the September long weekend, although here, I remark that I ended up spending more time outside than I did at my computer. The weather had been superb, and I took advantage of the Monday off to sleep in. After spending a morning with the housework, I prepared my first-ever Irish Nachos with a recipe that my local pub is known for: ground beef, cheddar cheese, red bell peppers, Jalapeños and grape tomatoes with chives on a bed of waffle fries. The final result was surprisingly delicious, considering it was my first time making this dish, and when paired with salsa and sour cream, it proved to be a hearty and delicious lunch.

  • In the afternoon, I ended up going for a ten-kilometre walk, which brought me to a little-known but still gorgeous lookout affording me a wonderful view of the city centre. The weather on Monday was especially pleasant – the high was 19ºC, a comfortable reprieve from the high twenties and low thirties we’ve seen all August. Summer is fast coming to an end now, and the days are beginning to shorten again; when I waken up at six to hit the gym, it’s dark outside. I am rather excited to see winter arrive this year, and being able to game on the coldest days of the year isn’t a bad way to unwind.

  • Looking back, it was pure luck that I was able to pick up an RTX 3060 Ti when I did – the card officially launched back in December 2020, but the ongoing microchip shortage, coupled with extremely high demand resulting from the global health crisis, meant everyone was struggling to find the hardware for their machines in a time when having a pint with mates or watching a movie wasn’t possible. Coupled with unscrupulous people who use bots to empty out entire stocks for scalping “cook groups” and cryptocurrency mining operations, common folks have found it near-impossible to buy GPUs at reasonable prices.

  • While demand for GPUs will lessen as the pandemic recedes, I do not imagine that scalping or cryptocurrency mining will diminish any time soon. Similarly, the supply shortages will likely continue to be an issue. This is why I decided to jump on the opportunity to purchase an RTX 3060 Ti; the perfect storm of factors could potentially make the 40-series very hard to come by. For this reason, I’ve also decided to pre-order the new iPhone 14 Pro rather than pick it up in-store once it launches on September 16. I’ve been running the iPhone Xʀ since September 2019 when my last company loaned me the device for testing (when the company dissolved, I was permitted to keep the phone).

  • Prior to the iPhone Xʀ, I was running an iPhone 6, which I bought in 2015 and accompanied me to two conferences, Japan, Denver, Winnipeg and F8 2019. My personal policy is to only replace my device when Apple stops releasing iOS updates for my device. When Apple released iOS 13 in September 2019, I learnt my iPhone 6 was not supported, and since then, I’d been looking to buy a new iPhone so I can keep up to date with development work. The iPhone Xʀ has acted as an interim device and has performed extremely well: in fact, it still feels speedy and responsive, and as a development device, the iPhone Xʀ has remained satisfactory, allowing me to fully test features that require a physical device.

  • The iPhone Xʀ would easily last me another two years, but I’d been planning on upgrading once Apple released a notch-less phone simply because it would represent a new UI approach, and so, when Apple announced their newest line of devices yesterday, they had my undivided attention. The iPhone 14 Pro introduces the new “Dynamic Island” pill for its front-facing camera and sensor array, and after seeing how tightly integrated it is with the software, the merits of having a physical device to test concepts for the Dynamic Island became apparent. As the first iPhone to have the Dynamic Island, running an iPhone 14 Pro would give me a head start in experimenting with different UI concepts.

  • Although I don’t imagine that I’ll see much use from the A16 Bionic chip or 48 MP camera right out of the gates (both of these premium specifications far exceed my current requirements), the additional power does mean that the iPhone 14 Pro would serve me extremely well until Apple no longer makes iOS upgrades available to it. To this end, the iPhone 14 Pro has proven to be increasingly attractive as a replacement for my iPhone Xʀ: although 300 dollars pricier than the standard iPhone 14, having premium features will be helpful in my line of work as it could help me explore new features earlier.

  • Back in Wildlands, I complete the latest mission, which entails capturing El Chido and extracting him to a safehouse. The capture missions are always the most tricky to complete, and even with a new loadout, it still took me a few tries to get it right – having new gear makes things slightly easier, but it still ultimately boils down to ones’s skill. For this particular assignment, patience is the ultimate asset: I ended up spotting all of the Santa Blanca enforcers on sight, picked off most of the enemies and in a stroke of luck, shot at the vehicle El Chido was trying to escape in, causing him to get out and take cover. I subsequently grabbed him, shoved him in the same vehicle and drove off.

  • I would end up losing the Santa Blanca forces following me shortly after, although my vehicle had taken enough damage to start smoking halfway through the drive. I subsequently relieved a civilian of their SUV and used it to make the remainder of the decidedly casual drive to the safehouse. With this mission complete, my exploration of Malca comes to a close. With this done, and having now found a loadout that’s working well for me, I will continue to press forward in Wildlands and see where things end up. The next time I write about this game, I will be featuring screenshots of the game running with every setting maxed out. 

  • In the meantime, Battlefield 2042‘s second season has begun, and I’m having a considerable amount of fun playing through things. Besides an engaging new map, the RTX 3060 Ti means I’m maintaining good framerates. Battlefield 2042 has come a very long way since its launch, and the game is gradually reaching a state where it is consistently fun to play. I also will be resuming my journey in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare – I put the brakes on things back in August to make a dent in Jon’s Creative Showcase, but with a little more time available now, I’m looking forwards to finishing the campaign off, before returning to Half-Life: Alyx.

For the past six years, I’ve been running the NVIDIA GTX 1060 (6 GB). This video card has long been praised as being one of NVIDIA’s best video cards in that it strikes a balance between performance and price: although no longer capable of running the latest titles at 1080p with everything set to ultra, it remains a competent card. However, it is less suited for running VR titles and 1440p gaming. To this end, I’ve been long debating whether or not I would hang onto the GTX 1060 and wait for the next-generation RTX 40-series. My decision was made last week, when the local computer hardware store ran a sale on the RTX 3060 Ti – ordinarily retailing for 730 CAD (554 USD), a chance flash sale saw the price drop to 620 CAD (470 USD). This is only 70 USD above the MSRP, and it was not lost on me that the RTX 4060, which would be the tier I’d be looking to buy, wouldn’t be available until somewhere in 2023. The new 40-series are said to be a dramatic improvement, but also have a much larger power draw, and moreover, availability and pricing are both unknown. Waiting for an RTX 4060 could mean paying more for a card that has a higher power requirement and waiting until mid-to-late 2023. After weighing my options, I ended up making the call to pick up the RTX 3060 Ti (an MSI-branded after-market card). While this card won’t dramatically improve my experience in things like Half-Life 2 or The Master Chief Collection, the difference in performance is night and day in something like DOOM Eternal and Battlefield 2042. In the former, I finally have access to real-time ray-tracing, which results in a game whose visuals blow my socks off. In the latter, I can maintain a smooth framerate and not worry about hardware limitations costing me in multiplayer matches. Here in Wildlands, the game runs with everything maxed out at a solid 90-110 FPS. Although Wildlands looked quite good already, the RTX 3060 Ti allows me to run the game in a way that renders it photorealistic. In 2017, even the GTX 1080 wasn’t able to run Wildlands at 1080p when everything was turned up (only the GTX 1080 Ti was capable of this). Fast forward to the present, however, and advances mean that one no longer need a 920 dollar video card to run the game with everything set to ultra. Altogether, I’ve found the RTX 3060 Ti to be a fitting acquisition – my PC build is now officially complete, and bonus points goes to the fact that the specific RTX 3060 Ti I was able to buy, an MSI Gaming X, has a superior cooling solution and RGB lighting, a step up from the single-fan EVGA 1060 SC I’d been running before. With this large jump, I’m rather excited to continue my journey in the newer titles and revisit older titles with a fresh coat of paint in the form of real-time ray-tracing, as well as press further into Half-Life: Alyx with better frame rates. The GTX 1060 has been in service for six strong years, and at present, it’s time to retire it. I will be keeping this card as a backup, since it’s still in excellent condition, but moving ahead, I look forwards to sharing screenshots that are a little sharper and more detailed than before.

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands: Returning to Resume The Fight Five Years Later

“I love coming home, especially with a victory.” –Dominic James

During the cold dark of February five years earlier, I drove out to my founder’s place for a team pizza party and poker night. This evening coincided with Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands‘ open beta, and I still vividly recall wrapping up a mission before driving out into the comparatively balmy weather. After settling in, we went about making our pizzas from hand-made dough, before challenging one another to poker. Despite not knowing any of the rules behind poker, I found myself learning quickly, and after three matches, ended up breaking even. The evening’s festivities were punctuated by discussions of where the start-up was headed, and at this point in time, the company had been around nine months old. I’d finished delivering an app for an American computational oncology firm, and the focus had shifted towards utilising a similar technology for handling medical surveys. We had been in talks with the university, and a handful of research labs had expressed interest in signing on to test things; although I’d been a novice in iOS development at the time, I was working towards building a functional prototype. In the five years that has passed, this company has since gone under, leaving me with a few years of iOS experience and a lingering wish to play through Wildlands in full. This opportunity would present itself by May, when Wildlands went on a sale. After picking up the game and returning to Bolivia, I resumed my journey of working to dismantle the Santa Blanca cartel, which has gained control of several regions in the country. While the Bolivian government establishes La Unidad to fight the cartel, the cartel’s power meant only a truce was reached. Months later, the United States deploys members of Delta Company, a black ops team to Bolivia with the aim of taking down the cartel and bringing their enigmatic leader, El Sueño, after a DEA Agent was executed. Unlike a majority of the titles I’ve played previously, Wildlands is a tactical cover shooter, encouraging players to recon their surroundings and pick their targets before engaging them: open firefights are discouraged, as even a few bullets are enough to put an operator out of action, and when enemies realise what’s up, they will swiftly call in reinforcements.

The end result of the combat system in Wildlands creates a game where patience, stealth and tactical play is rewarded. Wildlands speaks to the importance of planning out one’s moves before taking any action, and being flexible for the inevitable moment when even the best-laid plans fail. Missions typically begin with taking up an overwatch position and using either one’s drone or binoculars to tag as many foes and other environment hazards, like alarm towers and mounted guns. Subsequently, one must work out a plan to take out enemies simultaneously to avoid detection. If one is successful, no alert is raised, and one can then mosey on into a hostile facility and complete the objective, whether it be collecting intel, intimidating Santa Blanca lieutenants for information or assassinating a higher-ranking member of Santa Blanca to begin dismantling their drug empire. This is the easier route, and more often than not, impatience or ill-timing means that a body is spotted, or a shot is heard, leading Santa Blanca patrols to become suspicious. Players can still employ stealth here to dispatch any threats before the team’s cover is blown: a quick trigger finger and thinking on one’s feet can still preserve the element of surprise. However, if everything goes pear-shaped, players must now ready themselves for a firefight and use every tool at their disposal to survive. Completing a mission is still possible, as is eliminating the reinforcements that show up to the party, but the differences become apparent: if one doesn’t plan accordingly, the combination of adaptive thinking and skill can still save the day, although things become significantly riskier. Conversely, the patient and observant players can sneak into an installation, complete their objective and fade back into the shadows before anyone even knew anything was amiss, speaking to the incredible difference that a little bit of planning can make. It feels incredibly satisfying to coordinate with teammates and drop up to four patrols simultaneously, move to another position, pick off any stragglers and clear out a base in this way.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The last time I played Wildlands, it was early March in 2017, and I’d been rather looking forwards to a trip to Japan. Back then, I was nine months into work as a novice iOS developer, and this was during a time when the start-up I’d been with was still on a good path: we were working on apps that would help medical researchers, clinicians and doctors follow up with their patients by providing surveys that could easily be completed. Originally, I’d been brought on as a Unity developer to lead the production of 3D visualisations, since this is what my graduate thesis was on, but over time, the American computational oncology company suddenly decided they needed an app more than they needed the visualisations.

  • This sudden change led to the dismissal of several developers, and my reassignment from Unity to iOS – I had planned on building my own iOS projects in my spare time until I’d developed enough skills, but this represented a chance to really pick up Swift. While we were on the hunt for a suitable backend developer, I spent most of my days learning the ins and outs of completion handlers and delegation, two features that are indispensable for mobile development. At this stage in my career, I was a complete novice with UIs; another coworker handled building the view controllers and getting Auto Layout to play nice.

  • By late February, we had gotten enough done to demo a prototype to some of the researchers at the local university, and our founder decided to celebrate this milestone with a pizza party and poker night at his place. This coincided with Wildland‘s open beta, and I vividly recall driving out into the winter night to enjoy some poker after spending a quiet Saturday afternoon exploring Bolivia. One of my other coworkers, a physicist with a keen eye for programming, also was a deft hand at making pizza dough from scratch, so we enjoyed an evening conversation over hand-made pizzas before starting the poker tournament.

  • After an enjoyable evening, I drafted out my post on the Wildlands beta and concluded that the game was not for me. The main drawbacks in Wildlands, I claimed, was the fact that all of the missions in the beta entailed sneaking into an enemy-held area and killing a high-value target. The movement system had felt janky and difficult – driving was especially difficult, and I found the cover system to be quite unintuitive. Moreover, everything in Wildlands was far apart, and this made travelling between areas of interest to be a chore.

  • As with The Division‘s open beta, my impressions five years earlier stemmed from the fact that in the open beta, fast-travel had not been available, and moreover, not all of the missions were available. However, curiosity about the game has lingered for the past five years, and upon a chance sale back in May, I decided to pick the game up for 10 CAD, reasoning that at this price point, it would represent a chance to explore Bolivia and see just what taking down El Sueño entailed. I thus began the game, took down my first Santa Blanca lieutenant and found myself impressed with the game.

  • While vehicles remain terrible, the movement system isn’t quite as floaty and inconsistent on foot as I remember. I thus began making my way through Itacua, the starting region. This time around I had a decent arsenal of weapons already – besides the starting P416, I had access to the LVOA-C and G36C. Before even attempting any of the story missions, one of my first goals was to locate the M40A5: having a good sniper rifle had allowed me to pick off distant foes with consistency during the open beta, and as bolt-action rifles can be suppressed, these weapons become excellent tools for softening up a site before entering the fray.

  • The gameplay loop in Wildlands‘ full release is considerably more impressive than the beta – mission variety is greater in that some missions involve sneaking into a mansion and planting listening bugs, while others will ask players to destroy slot machines and tables at a Santa Blanca casino. My personal favourite involved flying the drone into a politician’s room and capturing him in the middle of an indecent act for leverage over the Santa Blanca cartel. With this, my desire for mission variety is satisfied, and all of the other activities in Wildlands are preparation leading up to these missions.

  • To support players in a hostile land against overwhelming odds, players are equipped with a skill tree. Exploring the land will yield skill points, and completing supply missions provides provisions that are used to unlock and enhance traits, as well as gear performance. Right out of the gates, I opted to improve my weapon stability and maximise the number of sync shots Wildlands provides, allowing me to coordinate with AI squad members and take on up to four hostiles at once. From bolstering the drone’s range and battery life, to obtaining an under-barrel grenade launcher and even reducing the amount of time AI squad members can revive one with, these skills will become essential as one plays increasingly challenging regions.

  • The most useful skills early on should be spent on the drone and firepower: having the means to destroy helicopters and ground vehicles with a few rounds would be an immensely helpful trait, since blowing cover often causes reinforcements to show up with vehicles. For my part, I’ve tended towards stealth and make tracks when Santa Blanca calls in vehicles – over time, hostiles will stand down if the player cannot be found. This allows one to either disappear back into the wilderness, or clear out the remaining hostiles at a site. The latter approach was helpful in missions where I had to linger, and I vividly remember taking out a helicopter before destroying a Santa Blanca casino.

  • On the topic of casinos, I ended up buying Poker Night At The Inventory 2 during a Steam Summer Sale, but never got around to playing it. This year’s sale saw me pick up Half-Life: Alyx, an impressive and immersive title I’m moseying through; I’m gaming a lot less now as a result of the beautiful summer weather. This summer’s been fantastic for getting out, and I’ve spent many weekends capitalising on the weather. Weekdays have also been pleasant: I go to the office on Wednesdays as a change of pace, and of late, the food trucks have been present every Wednesday.

  • Yesterday, I went in so I could have a comfier environment for the longer meetings, and a food truck I’d never tried out was there: the Family Fry Guys is a food truck specialising in fries and poutine, and while they only have simpler poutines on their menu, this was plainly to their advantage. I ended up trying their pulled pork poutine – the pulled pork was impressive, being juicy and succulent. Family Fry Guys nailed the poutine with their thick-cut fries, savoury gravy and squeaky cheese. With this, my longing for poutine has been sated, and now, I’m left wondering what I should do on my Friday off. I’d been originally looking to visit a poutinerie, but two pounds of poutine is all the convincing I need to spend my Friday off a little differently.

  • While I would have loved to take a longer trip to Japan, the logistics surrounding travelling abroad right now are still nightmarish, and so, rather than one large vacation, I’ve opted for the odd Friday and Monday off here and there. These days off can still be quite enjoyable: I already took a Friday and Monday off a few weeks ago, using this time to explore a side of town I’d never been to and spend time with family at a provincial park we’d similarly never visited. As tempting as it might be to stay in and game, watch anime or blog all day, it is not lost on me that vacation time is special, and as such, my desire to unwind away from a screen outweighs my desire to do something that I could do on a weeknight.

  • For my current run of Wildlands, I’ve equipped the G36C, an excellent all-rounder that was already unlocked for me. By default, the starting P416 is an okay performer early in the game, and while it is eclipsed by other weapons, all of the assault rifles in Wildlands can deal with a foe in as little as a single shot to the head (or a few round if impacting centre mass). The high damage model means that firefights are over very quickly if one can place themselves tactically, and this minimises the chance that one is downed by enemy fire.

  • For almost all of my firefights, I leave my suppressor on: in Wildlands, suppressors are the norm, and leaving them on allows for one to sneak around and pick off foes, who will only be come suspicious and investigate the sound of a suppressed shot. On the other hand, firing a gun unsuppressed increases bullet velocity and penetration, but firing a round immediately alerts foes to one’s positions and renders them on alert. Players can freely take suppressors off and put them on, allowing them to quickly adapt to a different situation as the situation demands.

  • I remember how during the Wildlands beta, I ended up travelling from Itacua to Montuyoc. According to the maps, Montuyoc now has a difficulty rating of five, meaning that enemy bases are heavily fortified, have excellent guards and possess an intricate array of alarms and defenses. Conversely, in Itacua, bases are lightly guarded, and one can sneak in without having to worry about detection. As one levels up their skills and unlocks more equipment and perks, every tool in one’s arsenal will be needed to deal with the threats at tougher bases.

  • Although it’s easy to get lost in Bolivia and focus purely on the mission at hand, Wildlands does have a bit of a political tilt to it, as do many games that Ubisoft publishes. Unlike games that are geared purely for relaxation (such as Among Trees), shooters often are tied to commentary on current or recent events. Wildlands deals with the moral ambiguity of the drug trade, and in fact, reminds me a great deal of Tom Clancy’s Clear and Present Danger, in which the unnamed President of the United States authorises a black operation against drug cartels and ends up doing a backdoor deal that leads to John Clark’s men being killed by cartel enforcers.

  • Clear and Present Danger represented a reminder of why the War on Drugs is not going anywhere any time soon, showing how democratic governments abuse their powers, as well as how compartmentalisation of large organisations removes accountability in the name of maintaining the status quo. Clark and the Navy SEALS with him see none of this: all they know is their mission, and as such, there is no context for them to consider the consequences of their action. As such, when the government decides that having a black ops team running around behind enemy lines could be inconvenient, it’s easier for them to allow their own soldiers to die.

  • Wildlands‘ story sounds strikingly similar to Clear and Present Danger‘s, except since this is a game, the narrative won’t have the United States suddenly betraying the player and their team. However, through audio logs and communiques, it becomes clear that the players’ handler has troubles of her own when dealing with Santa Blanca, and that this mission is somewhat of a personal one to her. I relate to Bowman in that I have no love for narcotics or the drug trade, having seen what they do to people. This is an incredibly tricky topic because there are no easy solutions. As much fun as it is to cut the crap and send a wet team in to start lighting up drug dealers, the complexity of the real world means this is not a solution by any stretch (a real solution involves education and social support, implemented over several decades).

  • Generally speaking, I try not to talk about my own political views in blog posts because readers don’t come here for listening to me share my thoughts on current events and the like; compared to, say, my thoughts on whether or not delegation or notifications is better for sending information back to a view controller, my knowledge on politics is meagre, and my main rule about blogging is that I don’t try to sound more knowledgeable than I am about current events because this could lead to a misinterpretation of events. Instead, I prefer sticking to my strengths, and note here that in the context of a video game, I do have a bit more room to talk about how well a game presents certain topics.

  • This belief isn’t one that everyone shares, and I have noticed that some folks allow politics to overtake their lives to the extent where that’s all they’ll discuss. I understand the frustration surrounding the direction in which the world is headed, and while it can be gratifying to gain upvotes and retweets on social media, this does nothing to address either the issue or one’s unhappiness. There is a solution that Mark Manson outlines in his clever and helpful book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: we can actively choose to decide what matters to us and embrace life’s simplicities, and in excelling in the ordinary, well-being is found.

  • Back in Wildlands, I’ve finally entered the province of Pucara: El Sueño’s mausoleum is visible from here, and it’s an unnecessarily grand and ornate structure that prompts one of the AI squad members to remark they’d wished to be remembered to such an extent. Another squad member then counters that being a Ghost means not being remembered at all. I’m of the mind that a life well-lived is a life where one generates value for those around them in some way: not everyone who is remembered generates value, and not everyone who generates value is remembered.

  • While Montuyoc would’ve been a nice place to visit because of the large lake at the heart of the province, I’ll settle for exploring the other regions of Bolivia in Wildlands first: the open beta had only given players a very limited taste of what’s available, and it became apparent to me that my first impressions of the game notwithstanding, the retail version is a full-fledged experience that is anything but repetitive. Besides a larger variety of missions, emergent events mean that every single session is different. For instance, here, I was aiming to clear out a Santa Blanca outpost, but owing to the way things were lined up that day, I ended up drawing the ire of a nearby convoy.

  • On any other day, it would’ve been a simple and straightforward matter of synchronously taking out the five hostiles here, grab the intel and then leave, but things simply lined up in a way to make things more thrilling. Viewers will have noticed that I predominantly play Wildlands during the daylight hours. This is a deliberate choice, since it is under daylight that Bolivia’s at its most beautiful. At night, while guards have less visibility, and stealth becomes even more powerful, the scenery isn’t quite as exciting. Granted, if I wanted to play Wildlands like a real Tom Clancy novel, I’d play exclusively at night.

  • This is made possible by the fact that in Wildlands, there is an option to change the time of day. I can’t remember if this was available in the open beta, but here in the full release, it allows players yet another option to play the game in the manner of their choosing. Wildlands excels in providing players with options: there isn’t really an optimal way of playing, and this is where things get exciting. If one wished to run exclusively with a suppressed bolt-action rifle and submachine gun, one can do so. Alternatively, players who want to push their third-person firefight skills to the limits may choose to run an unsuppressed light machine gun and pair it with a shotgun.

  • The game further encourages customisation by providing players with a gunsmith, which allows for swapping out various attachments on one’s preferred weapons. It is not lost on me that Modern Warfare‘s gunsmith is very similar in style, and in fact, it may have been inspired by Wildlands‘ gunsmith, since there are large similarities in the UI and UX. The gunsmith in Wildlands is a ways more sophisticated than the weapon customisation options in The Division and The Division 2, and looking back, I’m surprised that I did not appreciate this aspect of the game during the open beta as much as I presently do.

  • The gunsmith in Wildlands adds one more facet to the game in encouraging players to explore: throughout Bolivia, weapons cases and attachment cases can be found in each region, and locating them permanently adds them to the players’ loadout. Outside of a firefight, this option actually allows one to switch over from a stealth-based setup to one that favours direct combat. On several occasions, I’ve used this to my advantage: during objectives to defend a radio from attacking Santa Blanca forces, for instance, I was able to swap off my M40A5 for a light machine gun.

  • From this point onwards, I’ll make my way slowly through the remainder of Wildlands‘ campaign and continue the journey I’d started five years ago. I will occasionally return to recount some of my misadventures as I make more progress throughout Wildlands; the game is quite large and has proven enjoyable enough to the point where I am considering picking up the Fallen Ghosts DLC, since it’s on sale at the time of writing: besides extending the campaign further, Fallen Ghosts also adds the MDR and a Serbu BFG-50A. I’ll sleep on this decision before making a call, but at 6 CAD from its usual 20 CAD, this doesn’t look like a bad deal at all.

One of the biggest challenges that I encounter in any open world game is where to get started. Typically, after an opening cinematic, players are just dropped into the world with a single objective, and this can create a feeling of being overwhelmed, as one is uncertain of what the next move is. However, this single objective provides players with grounding: whether it’s meeting allied forces or helping them with a goal, a game’s first few moments set precedence for what can be expected from the remainder of the title. In Wildlands, the first objective after insertion is to locate a Santa Blanca lieutenant and liberate rebels being held at a Santa Blanca site. These rebels, after being freed, help provide vital support for the player, and with the first goal done, CIA contact Karen Bowman will open the rest of the world to players. With a semblance of what to do next, the open world of Wildlands thus becomes easier to navigate, and one can begin the lengthy trek of clearing each region out and disrupting El Sueño’s operations enough to draw him out. This is the appeal of open world games: like reality, starting out is often difficult, but once one begins, one gathers more information and accrues more experience, making it easier to make decisions and take action. In this way, Wildlands acts as a rather curious metaphor for life itself; starting out is difficult, but once one finds their footing and approaches problems with both planning and an eye for improvisation, things will gradually fall into place. Having now cleared out three of the provinces in Bolivia, my journey in Wildlands is just getting started, and it feels great to return in the present: in the five years that have passed, my first startup no longer exists, but I have accrued five more years of experience, and I am curious to see what kind of learnings I will pick up here in Wildlands.

Among Trees: Reflections on Introspective Survival and Thoughts About Returning Home at Journey’s End

“Going away won’t change anything if you’re running from yourself.” –Joyce Rachelle

An adventurer begins a new life in a pristine forest somewhere over the horizon. After bringing a derelict cabin back to running order, the adventurer explores the surroundings and locates the materials to craft an axe. As the days pass, the adventurer begins learning the different plants and mushrooms in the forest, identifies several landmarks and gathers the materials for expanding the cabin. Over time, the cabin becomes outfitted with a crafting room, kitchen, storage room, sewing room and even a brewing room, allowing the adventurer to cook delicious meals and build the materials needed to further explore the forest. Meanwhile, the adventurer has learnt to fish and successfully evades bears that patrol certain parts of the forest. As the days turn to weeks, the adventurer begins travelling further into the forest, befriends a fox and encounters rare materials required for crafting a new coat and backpack. Eventually, there is no corner of the forest that has remain untravelled, and the adventurer is now thriving, having mastered the art of fishing and cooking wild edibles into delicious meals. The fox becomes an old friend, faithfully accompanying the adventurer on their adventures into the furthest reaches in the forest. With a fulfilling adventure under their belt, the adventurer crafts a hiking pack for returning back to civilisation and home, where others are awaiting them. This is Among Trees, a highly relaxing and cathartic survival simulator developed and published by FJRD Interactive. Released in November 2021, Among Trees is a vibrant and colourful experience that represents a departure from conventional survival games in that, beyond the existence of a pair of bears on the map, and the risk of potentially freezing to death if one were out too late exploring the forest, there are no tangible threats to the players. While the game is polarising owing to its lack of content, it represents a wonderful portrayal of the universal fantasy of packing it up and escaping one’s obligations – in a temperate forest by the summer, there’s no distractions from the hustle associated with living among people. One spends their days gathering wild edibles and materials to better their existence, and one is enveloped in infinite solitude. However, there is a gap in starting out on this new journey: in the very beginning, it is immensely difficult to know what one’s next move should be, and without any a priori knowledge, making it on one’s own in a completely new environment can feel intimidating, even overwhelming. However, the feeling of discomfort begins lessening after one puts their home together, and has a place to consistently return to. In the beginning, Among Trees gives very little indicator as to what exactly players must do to survive, and leaves said player to work out what their biggest priority should be.

Among Trees conveys the feelings associated with starting out extremely well – in the beginning, things can seem quite difficult because people are hardwired to operate within routine, and worry about the outcomes of one’s actions, as well as the route it takes to reach said outcome, can make a journey feel insurmountable. Once one takes the plunge and overcomes the initial hurdle of starting, things become significantly easier. Armed with my own knowledge of Survivorman, I approached Among Trees as Les Stroud might: having the right items in my kit would doubtlessly have been helpful, and so, I set my sights on putting an axe and lockpick together with the materials scattered around points of interests. Now that I had access to enough resources to begin crafting, my ability to survive opened up considerably. In this case, the combination of having some idea of what to do, coupled with the knowledge that things do get easier after one can get past the beginning, allowed me to make headway into Among Trees. In this way, Among Trees acts as a very visceral representation of why things always seem to become more straightforward the longer one is in the game – as one becomes more experienced with how things work, one can make increasingly better decisions to improve survival. There are obvious analogues in reality, grounded in the fact that with experience, one is able to see patterns and optimise their solutions for things. For instance, six years ago, I struggled to understand how information from one view controller could be sent to another in an iOS app. In the present day, I would immediately suggest using delegates. In Among Trees, once players survive the toughest first few days of the game and gain access to the three most essential tools (the axe, lockpick and map), the game really opens up. A water canteen allows one to wander the drier parts of the map without worrying about dehydration, and a tent lets one overnight outside. The storage attic lets one hang onto a much larger amount of materials for crafting, and the kitchen allows one to turn even poisonous or low-nutrition foods into a delicious meal. Fishing becomes a reliable and enjoyable way of acquiring protein, which sates hunger effectively and even heals the player to some extent. As players become more familiar with the resources available to them and how far they can travel, a new routine forms. Gradually, the mystery of living in a tranquil forest is replaced by effective survival – food is no longer a concern, there’s always a supply of fresh water, and knowledge of where resources are allows one to craft the game’s more effective gear, extending travel range and eventually allowing players to fully explore the world and discover every bit of flora available to them. Having now survived, and thrived in such a location, there hardly seems any new experiences to be had, and so, Among Trees offers players one final note: it’s time to head back to civilisation, where one’s loved ones and responsibilities await.

In its portrayal of an ending, Among Trees provides a very meaningful and unexpected message to players; no matter the sort of adventure one goes on, one will eventually need to return home, back to their loved ones, and back to their responsibilities and obligations. As enjoyable as living in an idyllic forest is, and how calming it is to foraging for wild edibles and enjoying a campfire under a setting sun in the great outdoors might be, one cannot escape society and other people forever. There comes a point where every journey, no matter how grand, must draw to a close, and a major part of making this palatable is knowing that there is a home for one to return to when they leave. In Among Trees, there’s a sort of finality after the hiking kit appears; one knows they’ve know become sufficiently versed in the game such that they can easily craft all of the resources needed to prepare for a trip back home, and that their time in the forest is finite. Folks who take this route will end the game and learn that while a break from routine is pleasant, if such excursions were to be for the long-term, then a new routine would inevitably form. This speaks cleverly to the idea that the novel soon becomes the familiar if experienced with sufficient frequency, and the charm wears off. In Among Trees, for instance, it is initially a thrill to catch one’s first-ever Perch, but as one becomes comfortable with fishing, one will soon acquire a stockpile of trout. Exciting first experiences, like camping outdoors for the first time, or creating the first Wormwood brew, similarly become routine with enough time. Going home is a part of the journey, as well, and this is what makes things like travel and vacations worthwhile. Given this message, it stands to reason that Among Trees also vindicates one of my own thoughts – some of the folks I know who’ve become expatriates haven’t done so out of a genuine desire to broaden their horizons and find the sort of fulfilment that their home nation could not provide. Instead, they became expatriates to escape something that had hurt them, hoping that being in a new country would help them to rediscover themselves and dull the pain of past failures. However, in the long term, this isn’t viable because the weight of one’s problems will always follow one around. In short, it is impossible to run away from oneself because no matter where one goes, their self will always be present. Becoming an expatriate might be helpful in the short term, allowing one to gain perspective, but there comes a point where one must return home and deal with what was troubling them. In Among Trees, the game gives players a chance to take this route: whether it was to try something novel for two months or escape a problem, spending time among trees helps the player to understand that, as relaxing such an existence might be, the same kind of fortitude and courage to have started such an adventure is also what one needs to face their problems. This is an encouraging thought, and Among Trees suggests a route of moderation: when faced with adversity in life, taking some time off to regroup and reassess things is helpful, and it is among nature one can accelerate this process.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • When players start Among Trees for the first time, they’ll be met with a derelict cabin. Scattered around the cabin are a large number of sticks and fir planks. Once gathered, they can be used towards bringing the cabin into a livable state. The cabin acts as the player’s home base: the game can only be saved here, and for the first while, is the only place one can sleep.

  • Among Trees offers players with no instructions beyond restoring the cabin, and so, one is left with the freedom of choosing what their first priority is. I ended up playing Among Trees using the knowledge I picked up by watching Survivorman, so with shelter taken care of, I decided that the next order of business was to deal with water and food. There’s a stream just north of the cabin that provides unlimited, fresh and clean drinking water. Conversely, food must be gathered. It is scattered throughout the world, and range from mushrooms to berries and root vegetables.

  • The button mushroom was the first bit of food I found, and while the game indicates that cooking the mushrooms will make them more nutritious, eating them raw will refill one’s hunger meter on short order. Among Trees doesn’t have the best resource management system in that hunger meter depletes significantly faster than it should: players must eat with the same frequency that they drink water, whereas in reality, one could go for upwards of three weeks without food, but dehydration sets in within three days. I would’ve preferred to have seen the hunger meter drop at about half the rate of the thirst meter.

  • The health meter needs no explanation: if it drops to zero, the player dies. The sleep meter will deplete consistently and reach zero after every day, so in the beginning, it isn’t possible to stay up long periods into the night. Similarly, after night falls, the temperatures begin dropping, and the coat one is equipped with is unable to handle the cold effectively. This forces players back to the cabin, and early in Among Trees, it does feel as though one is tethered to their cabin, foraging for mushrooms and berries by day, as well as topping off on water.

  • Survival in Among Trees during those first few days is tricky for this reason – one lacks the ability to explore, and it feels like the act of keeping one’s hunger, thirst, warmth and sleep attended to can consume all of one’s efforts. As such, the initial priority in Among Trees is to get familiar with the area around the cabin first and get a feel for how long it takes to get somewhere and back. Once this is done, the next step is to get the crafting wing going. The rationale for this is inspired by Survivorman: the cabin has a kitchen as well, but the raw mushrooms and berries do a satisfactory job of keeping hunger at bay, and can be found in reasonable abundance.

  • Since Les Stroud always mentions the importance of a good kit, especially of having a good, sharp hatchet or axe as a tool for crafting survival items, I reasoned that being able to craft items would be helpful. To this end, I ended up travelling to nearby points of interest, marked by the presence of large, collapsed warden’s towers. At these locations, wooden crates, locked boxes and piles of raw materials lay strewn about. Things like steel wire, nails, bolts, rags and rope are survival essentials, but in order to get to these materials, one must have an axe or lockpick.

  • It therefore makes sense that the first item one should craft is the axe, and if there are enough materials on hand, the lockpick should immediately follow. Having access to these tools allows one to collect all of the raw materials to craft other items, and the axe also provides one powerful new capability – one can now chop down trees for wood. Larger trees yield three fir planks and three sticks, while smaller trees yield two sticks each. It takes a single stroke to fell a small tree, and large trees will take eight strokes to cut down. Wooden planks and sticks stop being a problem now, allowing one to quickly gather the materials needed to build other wings of their cabin.

  • Once the axe and lockpick are crafted, the next step is to begin visiting the other points of interest. Blueprints begin appearing, and these provide access to various items, including a tent, campfire, watering can, map, canteen and compass. Some of these items are more useful than others at the onset: the map is the biggest asset, allowing one to keep track of where they are in the world at all times. Initially, the map is covered in a fog of war, but as one explores, landmarks and locations become identified.

  • Having access to the map makes it easier to locate areas with specific resources: larch resin and limestone is only found in certain places. However, the map also has one additional advantage in making it easier to keep track of all of the spots one has visited, including especially scenic areas. Among Trees is a visually impressive game, and every part of the forest is gorgeous to behold. Here, I pass through a field of tall grass en route to my next destination.

  • The trickiest of the blueprints to acquire is probably the tent, which allows one to overnight outdoors for up to three evenings. It is found near a bear – there are no other threats in Among Trees, but bears are hostile by default and can kill players in two swipes of a paw. One can evade bears by crouching in the tall grass and sneaking around: when crouched in grass, players become nearly invisible to bears and can access valuable resources without being spotted. I took the same approach, but at the same time, crafted a first-aid kit in the event stealth failed. In this way, I managed to find all but one of the blueprints in the game.

  • Ten days into Among Trees, I’d become more familiar with survival, and I was surprised to find a fox in front of my cabin. Upon petting him, the fox became a pet of sorts. The fox only takes bleak fillets as food, so at this point, it became important that I master the art of fishing as quickly as I could. In exchange for fish, the fox will faithfully accompany players to the furthest reaches of the map and can even hunt down elusive loot for players. Of course, the biggest advantage about having the fox around is having company: my favourite act is to pet the fox.

  • As I began expanding out the cabin, Among Trees pushed me to explore more of the map, and in this way, I came upon some of the most scenic places in the whole of the game, including the larch grove. There’s a certain tranquility about Among Trees I’ve not found anywhere else, and how I came upon Among Trees is actually quite a touching story – I’d added the game to my Steam wishlist some time ago, and one of my friends, whom I’ve long lost contact with, suddenly appeared and gifted me the game as thanks for having been there with them through some tough times during our university days.

  • Said friend disappeared as quickly as they appeared – they dropped off social media and didn’t reply to my thanks for having gifted me a free title. Curiously enough, I was wondering how they were doing after getting back into Jetpack Joyride; after the move, I hadn’t set up my desktop and spent that evening play Jetpack Joyride, which I first learnt of after watching said friend playing it while we were waiting for Otafest Aurora to start many years ago. Jetpack Joyride still reminds me of the university’s downtown campus, and playing the game was a trip down memory lane. Here, I arrive at the larch groves; the trees are positively radiant, with a warm, golden glow.

  • Les Stroud has commented time and time again on the importance of having a good fishing tackle, so as soon as I was able, I crafted myself a fishing rod. While fishing initially was difficult, once I figured out that I could use mouse movements to control for tension, I was successful on all of my fishing trips. I now had no shortage of protein energy for myself, and I was assured of a food supply for my fox. Eating fish raw in Among Trees has no deleterious effects (the game abstracts out parasites and other pathogens), although cooking the fish greatly bolsters its nutritional value.

  • As I became familiar with the game, and survival became more routine, I was able to really appreciate the graphics of Among Trees. The game looks its best during the sunset hours, and despite its simple visuals, Among Trees actually has steep hardware requirements – an i7-4770 CPU and GTX 970 is recommended. My GTX 1060 and old i5 3570k would’ve handled this game without, but on my current build, things have been very smooth with respect to framerates and visuals.

  • Among Trees became the first Steam game I’ve had where I was able to unlock every achievement after a single play-through – most of the achievements are pretty straightforward and come with exploration, while others require playing a certain way. Most tricky of all are the achievements to complete every bit of exploration the game offers, and surviving fifty days – it is easy enough to find all of the landmarks and build every cabin wing, but some plants can be quite elusive to find. I spent several sessions looking for the Black Void Mushroom. Similarly, surviving for fifty days is a challenge for players because after one learns to fish, survival becomes significantly easier, and most do not feel any inclination to continue playing.

  • I ended up focusing my attention on sewing a new coat and backpack to pass the time. The base backpack only has 12 inventory slots, and this fills up very quickly, especially if one’s carrying many equipment items with them. Similarly, the base coat offers no protection against the element and is only moderately comfortable. A better coat actually increases stamina and running speed on top of improving cold resistance. Once I had a better coat, I could run to locations for longer periods, and this increased my range to the point where I was now reaching places that previously would’ve demanded an overnight stay.

  • Because Among Trees‘ premise is such that players are treated to a purely cathartic game, and the only real challenge is the pair of bears that roam small areas of the map, some folks consider Among Trees to be a bit of a disappointment – traditional survival games are much more intense in that there’s a much wider range of threats that can prematurely end the game, and this creates an incredible amount of tension, driving the stakes up. The difference in aesthetic notwithstanding, most players are more concerned by FJRD Interactive’s original promise of adding more content to the game, only to rescind this promise when a new project came up.

  • While Among Trees might not have the best reception, I’ve not found any indicator as to what precisely people want out of the game – all discussions seems to be focused on how the developers were being unfaithful to the players, et cetera. Upon finishing the game, I found that Among Trees actually does a satisfactory job of creating a relaxed survival experience with the content already available: there’s a satisfactory gameplay loop, and the idea of the game becoming “boring” actually stems from the fact that, once the player has enough to survive comfortably, things do become more routine.

  • However, a creative player will find ways of making the most of their time, and in this way, one isn’t just surviving; they’ll thrive. Here, I throw a tent up as night falls – the tent is limited to three uses, and there’s an achievement that requires players spend three nights in the tent. I originally made use of the tent to explore the furthest corners of the map for chicory, a rare flower that only spawns occasionally. While a large number of guides out there suggest that chicory only spawns at dusk and by night, in specific part of the map, all of the chicory I’ve found were found during the mornings and day. Moreover, I found them in random areas of the map.

  • Attesting to how rare chicory is, I only ever found five during my entire play-through of Among Trees. While it can be cooked and eaten, it has a much more useful purpose: four are needed to craft the game’s largest backpack, which has a total of sixteen slots. There is an intermediate backpack with fourteen slots, and while two slots doesn’t seem like much, being able to hang onto two more types of material can make the difference between being able to bring back the resources one needs to craft something, or being forced to turn back around and leave resources behind.

  • As such, a backpack with four more slots than the base backpack would extend one’s range further. I decided to save my resources for the larger backpack. By this point in the game, I’d also began working on the brewing room. Although it seemed a bonus addition to the cabin, some of the elixirs that can be crafted are downright useful: the wormwood brew acts like a strong coffee and allows one to stay out for longer. This is a lifesaver, allowing me to travel far without needing to bring a tent. On some occasions, I’ve run into elk in the forest, although the elk are harmless and immediately take off upon spotting the player.

  • The feather larch outfit would become my preferred coat – offering some stamina increase, its biggest attributes are greatly increasing one’s resilience to cold, and boosting movement speed. These two properties make it possible to cover great distances quickly, and now, I was able to sprint across the map and reach a spot before the sun had fully risen where previously, it would take me a half-day to reach the same point. Coupled with the elixirs, there suddenly was less of a need to bring a tent with me on resource-gathering runs.

  • Upon completing the best backpack and coat for my play-style, I felt that Among Trees had reached a point where I was now able to not just survive, but thrive. At the cabin, I had a large stockpile of mushrooms, beets, radishes and fish. Thanks to the storage attic, I filled my other bins with wooden planks, bolts, nails, wire and pipes. With all of the essentials crafted, I had resources left over to begin really sprucing up my cabin – the game allows players to create decorative elements around their cabin, and in the beginning, such items feel extraneous.

  • As one begins to build the essentials and get the basics taken care of, they can turn their attention to creativity. Among Trees doesn’t provide these instructions to players by default, but the order in which one should get things done is reasonably easy to figure out. I have seen some guides suggest that the kitchen be built first so one can greatly boost the nutritional value of the food they find, but for me, the best order is the crafting room, followed by the storage attic. The brewing room and greenhouse should be the last elements constructed.

  • The further I got into Among Trees, the more the game’s message became apparent to me – things are always difficult at the beginning, but as one finds their flow and becomes familiar with routine, they become increasingly efficient. Things become easier, and over time, the unfamiliar becomes comfortable. Of course, the problem with this is that all experiences eventually stop being novel. Along this brand of logic, even travelling can become routine and unremarkable. This is what leads me to draw the conclusion that I do: some folks value creating memories and seeing the world, while others would prefer to establish their career and developing financial stability. The choice of choosing one or the other is a hotly-debated subject amongst millennials, and countless articles defending one side over the other have been written on the topic over the years.

  • I believe that early on, one should focus on their career and finances first – life is a game of momentum, and if one doesn’t get in the habit of conducting themselves with discipline, it can be tricky to do so later down the line. If one has a steady career and a game plan for the future, then with a bit of planning, one can still fit in windows with which to see the world with: one doesn’t need to spend a full year in a foreign nation to appreciate another culture. A lot of the proponents of travelling while one’s young suggest that one will have plenty of time later on to catch up, but many professional skills are analogous to lifting weights. Much as one needs to train consistently in order to make appreciable gains, one must constantly hone their craft in order to remain effective in their field.

  • However, in moderation, travel is indeed a form of catharsis, a means of broadening one’s horizons, and a pleasant way of breaking up the routine. When done appropriately, travelling and taking breaks leaves one better prepared to handle things. I note here that this is approach is what works for me: what I do may not work for everyone, and I do not presume to say that any one method is superior to another. I get that people tend to be quite vocal about their positions because their choices, and the path that it led them on, is very much a part of their identity. Ultimately, I maintain that, if one accepts responsibility for the outcome of their decisions, I will not challenge their choices or identity.

  • Back in Among Trees, I’ve finally reached the northeastern edge of the map. Here, a vast lake creates a natural boundary. Some guides call it the ocean, but mountains can be seen on the other side, and moreover, platers can drink out of this lake, indicating that it’s fresh water – drinking salt water is deleterious, with the high salt content accelerating dehydration to a dangerous extent. Conversely, since Among Trees lets players walk up to the water and drink it, it stands to reason this is fresh water. Here, I’ve set up a campfire and cooking kit along with my tent, creating a moment that is quintessential camping.

  • The eagle-eyed reader will have noticed that I’ve written two posts today; this time of year stands as my favourite, consisting of warm days spent enjoying the outdoors and savouring foods that are associated with the summer. This past long weekend, I took advantage of the Monday off to cook a Swiss-and-mushroom melt burger with a side of thick-cut fries (washed down with a tall glass of Ginger Ale and chased by freshly-picked cherries) for lunch. The day had been very hot, bringing back memories of the past two Heritage Day long weekends in previous years. However, since the move, I’ve been rather spoiled by the fact that the new place has air conditioning.

  • This prevents me from forwarding the ports my private server needs to run properly. This means that, in the foreseeable future, I won’t be able to revisit Stormwind by nightfall, or return to the Stonetalon Mountains. Having said this, there are many other experiences I’ve got on my plate. Back in Among Trees, I’ve thrown my tent up beside a pond as night sets in: after checking out the lake, I head back into the forest in search of the remaining plants that have eluded me, including the Death Cap and Black Void mushrooms.

  • To help with navigation, I’ve finally crafted a compass. While a map is superbly useful, having a compass allows me to travel in a direction with greater certainty, and here, I pass through a more heavily wooded area of the forest. It was quite amusing to know that, armed with the axe, food to replenish one’s energy and plenty of patience, one could hypothetically try to chop down the entire forest. However, in between sessions, trees regenerate, and some items respawn. The only exception are the crates and lockboxes at points of interest: if one visits and opens them, but leave the materials in place, they will disappear later on.

  • Towards the end of my time in Among Trees, I returned to the lake one last time while on the hunt for the elusive Black Void mushroom. I ended up finding my target on this run, and in the process, also caught a glimpse of an elk along the shore. With the Black Void mushroom, I’d found all of the plants in the game, explored every landmark and built every extension to my cabin. Among Trees awarded me an achievement for my troubles and alerted me to the fact I could now craft the hiking kit. This was the remaining item I was missing from my crafting library, and as it turns out, this is the last item one can assemble, being meant as an item that brings Among Trees to an end.

  • The Black Void, Death Cap, Dotty and Angel mushrooms are poisonous – consuming them raw runs the risk of poisoning the player, but cooking them renders them safe to eat in Among Trees. Real life, unfortunately, doesn’t work this way, and even the high temperatures of cooking aren’t enough to denature the proteins. It goes without saying that Among Trees is not to be considered as being a resource for outdoor survival. I tended to avoid picking these mushrooms in-game, knowing that the other mushrooms and berries can be eaten raw (making them more valuable for situations where I was not near my cabin or had a cooking kit on my person).

  • Armed with the best jacket possible, plus brews for bolstering body temperature and ward of drowsiness, I am finally able to explore the forest by night. For my troubles, I am rewarded with the light of a crescent moon. One thing I noticed in Among Trees is that weather patterns are quite limited, and cosmetic in nature. It’s either sunny or rainy, and rainfall does little to impact the player. In reality, rain and wind can lock people down, making it difficult to travel great distances. Additional weather patterns in Among Trees would add to the depth of this game, but I imagine it would also represent challenges from an implementation standpoint.

  • Towards the endgame, I’ve fully made use of every facility available to my cabin. The cook stove allows me to cook highly nutritious and delicious meals. Sticks are needed to fuel the stove, but they can be easily acquired by chopping down trees. The resulting meals can fill the hunger bar to a hundred percent, and I made it a point to eat breakfast every morning before setting out, and then along the way, I would top off with the various mushrooms, berries and roots I find.

  • Observant readers will have noticed that I’ve now got potted plants, sculptures and other artworks around the cabin. Once most of the essentials are crafted, any metal one finds no longer has any use, so it is perfectly okay to turn them into art for sprucing up the cabin interior. I spent most of the game travelling around, hunting for resources, but at the endgame, I stayed at the cabin to craft things, and also to tend to my greenhouse. Having now collected seeds from the points of interest, I planted them and waited a few days for the turnips and radishes to grow, all the while watering them periodically.

  • The greenhouse is the most photogenic part of the cabin, and when all of the visual effects are cranked to maximum, it is gorgeous in here. Among Trees only allows players to plant radishes and turnips, and upon harvesting them, they occasionally drop seeds that allow one to have access to more vegetables. These roots do take some effort to cook, and radishes can only be eaten cooked, but having vegetables means not being reliant on the mushrooms and berries that spawn throughout the world.

  • All adventures must come to an end, and after fifty days of surviving in the forest, I finally put my hiking pack to use – in real-time, I’ve spent about thirteen hours over the course of a month in Among Trees, and I feel that the game has proven to be a remarkable experience, both from a gameplay perspective and from a thematic perspective. The thematic piece proved to be quite unexpected, a consequence of my own experiences feeding into how I approached the game, and I would imagine that a different individual playing this very game would likely come out with a completely different set of thoughts.

Among Trees is able to tell a compelling story that speaks to the values I hold despite being a sandbox experience that never quite reached completion; I’ve heard that FJRD Interactive originally had plans to improve the game’s complexity and depth, but shortly after, abandoned development in favour of other projects despite wishes from the community to wrap the game up. As enjoyable as Among Trees is, there are numerous elements that appear that the game wished to add, including more options for backpacks and coats. A more complex system would allow one to choose their gear more carefully (e.g. a higher-capacity backpack might reduce one’s movement speed). The game does not allow one to pick clams off the beach from the forest’s northeastern corner, or lay down crab pots. Similarly, while one can spot rabbits and elk in the game, there is no option to fashion traps and snares to catch smaller critters for meat, or perhaps hunt larger game with a bow. The greenhouse only allows players to grow beets and radishes, but it would be nice to let players farm their own berries and mushrooms. Besides expanding the crafting and clothing system, as well as adding a hunting system, Among Trees also would benefit from providing players with a variety of terrains to survive in. The game currently sets players in a warm, temperate forest during the summer, when temperatures are comfortable, and wild edibles are in good supply. It would be enjoyable to see the game use its temperature, food and hydration meters more effectively by providing players with a tropical island, desert and arctic tundra map to mix up what one should prioritise in a different region of the world. In the arctic, hydration may deplete more slowly, but temperature will always deplete quickly. A desert setting may cause the sleep and hydration meters to wear out more quickly. This would force players to look more closely at different goals, and add considerably to the game’s depth. However, as previously mentioned, it appears that FJRD Interactive has ceased development on Among Trees, and as such, the items on my wishlist are unlikely to be realised. Although Among Trees has an incredible potential to become a sort of Survivorman experience set in beautifully crafted and highly cathartic settings, lack of future work means the game’s current state is likely all players will get for the present. In spite of this, it isn’t all doom and gloom – the game does have an excellent message for players, and for me, a single play-through from front to back, wholly exploring every corner of the map, collecting every plant and fungi I could, and building my cabin to completion, took a total of thirteen hours. Consequently, Among Trees is a worthwhile experience when it’s discounted; although steep at full price, it is a fun game that is quite unlike anything I’d played previously, and having now taken a break from my usual shooters, it’s time to return to my favourite genre with a fresh set of eyes.

Routine Feat: Remarks on the Importance of Structure as a Route to Success and A Calgary Rodeo Reflection

Late night, come home
Work sucks, I know
She left me roses by the stairs
Surprises let me know she cares

–blink-128, All The Small Things

Developed by Alexandre Ignatov, who had previously published ШХД: ЗИМА / IT’S WINTER, Routine Feat was actually written before IT’S WINTER, but the assets were reused to create a very moody and contemplative experience. However, unlike IT’S WINTER, Routine Feat has additional depth to it – it puts players in the shoes of an office worker who appears stuck in a routine of monotony: day in and day out, the office worker heads to a dreary job where, in his office, he’s scrawled onto a piece of paper “My work does not bring joy and is not so important for me and the people around me, but I cannot quit it. Otherwise, what will I eat?” Between his duties, the office worker toils away on his own novel, occasionally struggling to come up with ideas, but over time, his perseverance pays off: on a sunny, peaceful morning, the office worker submits his finished manuscript and heads to work. Coming home, the office worker spots a letter and a pile of cash in his mailbox – the publishers love his book and have already placed an order for a hundred thousand copies, saying that such a book will move millions. At first glance, Routine Feat appears to follow in the footsteps of IT’S WINTER in conveying a sense of melancholy and longing. Note scattered around the office worker’s home and workspace suggests someone who’s living day-to-day, seemingly without purpose or motivation. However, the office worker’s novel is the one ray of light in his life, and by investing time into this project in between his work, while at the same time, doing his best in a daily routine despite his boredom and melancholy, the office worker is able to create something of worth and find new value in his life. Among the monotony of routine comes new joy, and in this area, Routine Feat shows that there is nothing wrong with routine. While social media glamourises spontaneity and travel, and relationship guides claim (without evidence) that dating spontaneous people is the singular key to happiness, experts universally agree that routine is vital in maintaining one’s mental health, reduces anxiety and increases resilience against adversity. People who follow a consistent routine sleep more soundly, and may also enjoy improved physical health on top of mental wellness. Having a routine creates familiarity which allows one to do more – knowing one’s always going to have an hour in the morning means being able to lift weights before starting one’s workday, and being assured of an hour of rest before turning in means I’m confident that I could get some writing or gaming done that day.

The melancholy and monotony that is seen in Routine Feat contrasts sharply with the beautiful summer weather – when players open Routine Feat, they are met with the same apartment complex seen in IT’S WINTER. However, this time, sunlight fills the rooms with the warm golden glow of a mid-summer’s morning, and the sky is a pale azure. The landscape is verdant and lush with vegetation. Even though there isn’t another soul around (I’m the only person around), and it feels as though the weather is mocking me, it’s clear that Routine Feat is not trying to convey the same sense of hopelessness that only a bitterly cold winter’s night could. The change of seasons is what sets Routine Feat apart from its predecessor – long days filled with sunshine instills a sense of hope, and having light out increases the incentive to stop to take a breath and live in the moment. Although it might not be a life-changing journey to Japan, there is a certain joy about being able to feel the warmth of sunshine while waiting for the bus. Similarly, more sunshine means after coming home from work, it’s still light enough to enjoy the last rays of sun before returning one’s attention to their pursuits. It is therefore appropriate that here in Routine Feat, looking beyond what superficially appears to be a dull and dreary life, one finds a world filled with nuance and excitement. It is unsurprising that the office worker is able to write a book under such conditions – no longer trapped by the winter, one is really able to stretch their feet and allow the long days of summer to provide inspiration. The combination of routine in Routine Feat has its basis in reality; I am reminded of spending endless days during the summer of a decade earlier indoors with MCAT preparations while the world around me enjoyed everything the summer had to offer. However, even though I was not engaged in activities associated with the summer, the warm weather and beautiful skies gave me a sense of comfort and reassurance. This sense of well-being, coupled with the fact that I’d settled into a fairly consistent routine, of studying, lifting weights and unwinding, meant that what had appeared to be an insurmountable foe would suddenly look more manageable. On this day ten years ago, it had been a gorgeous morning, and while the family had stepped out to enjoy the Calgary Stampede, I remained behind to brush up on verbal reasoning. It had been a particularly fine day, and after hitting my quota for the morning, I walked out to the local sandwich shop for a pork rib sandwich. I was struck with a thought: appreciating small things in life is what makes things worthwhile. Routine Feat makes it a point to convey this, and while the game might initially seem repetitive and pointless, once players take the time to slow down and figure things out, there’s an unexpectedly uplifting and optimistic message about how, in the throes of routine, people can optimise their schedules and come to do great things with the time that is available to them. I managed to have what was, in retrospect, a pretty enjoyable summer ten years ago despite having spent so much of it on the MCAT (I would later go on to travel and even put out a journal publication). The office worker in Routine Feat may live a routine life, but in growing familiar with his day-to-day patterns, manages to optimise things and find the time to pursue his own interests, chipping away tirelessly until things finally come to a head, and his efforts are rewarded.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I became intrigued with Routine Feat after playing IT’S WINTER and discovered the game was free to download from Ignatov’s website. However, when the game became available on Steam back in May, I decided to pick it up to support Ignatov: both Routine Feat and IT’S WINTER speak to some of my own experiences with loneliness, of being trapped during both winters and summers during my time as a university student. In 2013, I earned my Bachelor of Health Science degree, but between all of my friends heading off to pursue their careers, and a one-in-a-century flood knocking out my summer plans (which entailed a kokuhaku), I fell into a mild depression.

  • As that summer drew to a close, I began dreading the imminent arrival of winter; the individual I had wished to deliver my kokuhaku to had left for an exchange programme in Japan, and I was left to pursue open studies while awaiting the results of my second shot at getting into medical school. In the depths of winter, my applications fell through, and I got a sneaking suspicion the person I was hoping to ask out would not wait for me. However, it was not the end; upon hearing about my applications’ outcomes, my supervisor immediately extended to me an offer of admissions into graduate school, as well as a position on what would become the Giant Walkthrough Brain project. Spotting an opportunity to walk a different path, and to immerse myself in something that took my mind off things, I accepted immediately.

  • This proved to be a pivotal moment for me, and I attribute my recovery to this turn of events – keeping busy with a project that would contribute to scientific communication in the community took my mind off the hurt of what had amounted to a rejection, and I thus focused my entire effort towards learning Unity. While I would slowly find my way again and ended up becoming an iOS developer as a result of my experiences in graduate school, I remained quite hostile towards winter for some time after. However, even this dislike wouldn’t last forever; I would come to take stock in the fact that, no matter how cold winters got, summers would always return, and until summers did come back, I had somewhere warm to return to every day.

  • IT’S WINTER spoke to me about this fact: while the game is supposed to convey an overwhelming sense of isolation and sadness, I found that the game actually captured something quite unexpected. To be able to wander outside in a bitterly cold winter’s night, and then returning to the warmth and comfort of the player’s apartment was quite reassuring: no matter how far my wanderings took me, I could always go back to somewhere with light, heat and food. It was with this mindset that I approached Routine Feat, which was similarly written to be a game that speaks to depression and melancholy associated with an unremarkable life.

  • When players start Routine Feat for the first time, they are met with blue skies and the light of a summer’s morning. I remember numerous such mornings in all of my summers, especially during the year I took the MCAT. Like the office worker of Routine Feat, I would board the bus and head for campus to either attend my preparation course or lift weights, before hitting the books and returning home. Buses to the university are practically empty in the summer, adding to my sense of isolation. However, while my MCAT year should have been lonely, I found that having a routine helped me to focus effectively.

  • The reason for this is simple: knowing what to expect on a given day creates confidence in having control. Having structure in one’s day provides certainty and reassurance, allowing one to know that they’ve got time blocked out to get certain things done. This is why, when the global health crisis hit some two-and-a-half years earlier, I was able to cope with things. I woke up early in the mornings, ate breakfast and got to work. Every day at 1030, I would stop for a yogurt break, and then I’d resume work until 1200, during which I’d break for lunch.

  • Lunch breaks would last precisely an hour, and then I would work until 1500. Here, I’d stop to enjoy the refreshing tang of a mandarin orange. Once this break was over, it was a straight shot until the end of the day. After work, I would either do light exercise in the basement or, if the weather allowed me to, go for a stroll around the block. Between my routine, I found enough time to game, blog and chat with friends. While I greatly missed being able to go to restaurants and my favourite places in town, knowing my days were well-organised, and that I was still getting things done, gave me some reassurance.

  • In this way, when restrictions began rolling back, I would come to look forwards to grabbing takeout from the local Cantonese restaurant, or spending some time in the nearby parks on weekends. This new routine has worked well for me: despite beginning a new position last April and moving house this year, old habits died hard; I ended up following the same work and life patterns I previously did, with the main exception that I’m doing more housework now. Curiously enough, doing housework is when I’m most at ease, as it gives my mind a chance to wander and unwind.

  • Having now moved for a shade over three months, I’ve formed a new routine by merging old habits with nuances of the new place, and this has in turn allowed me to acclimatise to life in a new part of town; there is enough time in a day for me to work, look after the new place, exercise, sleep well and on top of all this, continue to keep this blog going. Back in Routine Feat, I will note that the game gives players full freedom to do whatever they choose to. In mornings, a bus will appear at regular intervals, and boarding will take players to work.

  • One can choose to deliberately miss the bus without penalty: buses will keep coming ad infinitum, and the game will only advance if one boards, so one could spend as much time as they wish to explore the environment. Unlike IT’S WINTER, where there’s a soft boundary that will transport players back to the heart of the map, Routine Feat features hard boundaries at the map’s edges to prevent them from going further. The map is actually a ways bigger than it was in IT’S WINTER, and one can thoroughly explore the woods surrounding the office worker’s apartment block.

  • The lack of deadlines means Routine Feat is free to give players full agency over their decisions. This is especially important, since many things in the game can be interacted with. One can choose to cook a scrumptious breakfast with the ingredients in their refrigerator as a way to start the day, or go for a stroll in the woods surrounding the apartment. Reading the notes on one’s desk will also lead one to realise that the office worker is an aspiring author, and while he may occasionally struggle to come up with ideas, for the most part, the office worker can find inspiration to write.

  • One thing that I didn’t notice was that, in order to make any progress on the novel, one must type on the typewriter, and then when a page is done, it must be manually inserted into an envelope on the office worker’s desk at home. Every morning and evening, the office worker will produce two to four pages before calling it quits, and so, to finish Routine Feat quickly, one must make it a habit of writing every day, before heading for work, and then before turning in. However, there’s no obligation to move at such a breakneck pace: Routine Feat won’t punish players for finishing slowly, nor will it reward players further for finishing quickly.

  • Observant players will have noticed that in Routine Feat, mornings will look slightly different when a new day starts, and similarly, players arrive home from work at varying times of day. Sometimes, the sun is just setting when one gets off the bus, and at other times, it’s fully nighttime, with a full moon in the sky. On one of my mornings in Routine Feat, the sky was overcast and brought back memories of last year, when extensive forest fires a province over devastated entire towns and filled the skies with smoke.

  • This year, the weather’s been quite the opposite – we’ve been fortunate that no heat dome settled over British Columbia, keeping the forest fires at bay, and moreover, near-normal precipitation and temperatures have made for both green surroundings and comfortable days. July and August are the times of year best suited for summer adventures, and unlike the previous two years, this year, I am hoping to slowly ease back into planning out excursions on weekends to take advantage of the long and warm days that I’ve long expressed fondness for.

  • It suddenly strikes me that I’ve not yet shown a screenshot of the office worker’s bedroom. Although the quarters are spartan, especially for folks who’ve grown accustomed to living in a detached home of at least 1200 square feet, looking around the office worker’s apartment still gives a very inviting sense. Everything is reasonably clean and well-kept, and while there’s no living room, the bedroom is very large. Were I to live here, the only adjustment I’d make is to move the bed over to the right, closer to the heater by the window, and then put the TV stand underneath the tapestry.

  • Because of variability in the weather, on some mornings in Routine Feat, I wake up to sunlight filling the bedroom. This is how bright my room gets in the morning during the summers – it’s gotten to the point where I don’t need an alarm clock to wake up on days where it’s sunny, and I’m always filled with a feeling of peace whenever it looks like this. I’ve noticed that sleep is never really a problem in Routine Feat; inconsistent sleep is often associated with depression, as depression can create feelings of regret, sadness and longing that result in thoughts that wholly occupy the mind.

  • Players have no trouble sleeping in Routine Feat, and falling asleep is as easy as looking at the bed and pressing “E”. Once asleep, Routine Feat treats players to fantastical dreamscapes. According to Ignatov, the dreams themselves don’t have any deep or specific meanings, being meant to represent spaces that are quite different than the office worker’s home and day-to-day life. I’ve always been fond of creators who step up to clarify things and remind folks to take it easy: it’s not lost on me that, perhaps as a result of North American literature courses, people are taught to pick works apart and focus on nuances like symbolism and literary devices over the overarching themes and character experiences.

  • As it turns out, the approach of analysing every last element in a work is known as the reader-response criticism theory, in which practitioners can interpret a work independently of the author’s intentions, and in this way, produce any end conclusion because the reader’s interpretation is treated as the main authority on things. A handful of anime blogs out there subscribed to this approach and at their height, took things one step further by asserting that works can be analysed independently of cultural and individual influences to produce an “objective” interpretation. Behind the Nihon was fond of this, but I found their methodology flawed on the grounds that it produces a very narrow and limited view of the work, since Behind the Nihon Review’s writers still brought their own subjective tastes and backgrounds to the table.

  • Conversely, I always strive to pay attention to what the author attempted to convey, since how they present and execute a work is influenced by how they perceive their experiences. Reconciling the differences between what I experience, and what the author’s intentions are, produces the richest understanding of things. Routine Feat, for instance, is a game that conveys sadness and melancholy from routine, but because the game chooses to give the player an end-goal (of writing a book) that they do succeed in, the game also shows the nuances of following a routine. This is Ignatov’s intention: “if you stop and take a breath of air, then you might like [Routine Feat]“.

  • On a quiet morning with blue skies, I managed to get all twenty pages of the book written out, and submitted the manuscript to the publisher. What awaits the player is another day at work, but this time around, there’s a faint sense of excitement this time around. Routine Feat doesn’t have a large number of goals, but the office worker’s act of writing a book does advance the story. However, it is worth noting here that Routine Feat does not have any save points, and as such, one must play through several days in order to write all twenty of the requisite pages: leaving the game at any time will reset one’s progress.

  • Earlier today, I had awoken to gorgeous skies and a forecasted high of 26°C. However, it was no typical day: I was set to attend the Calgary Stampede with the company, and to ensure I arrived in time for lunch to begin, I left earlier. Today marked the beginning of the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, and this event traditionally kicks off with a large parade downtown. The light rail line runs right through the downtown core and intersects with the parade route, so the wisdom of leaving early became apparent. After arriving, I made my way to the Rotary House, which had been marked as closed for a private function (i.e. ours).

  • Once lunch ended, we moseyed on over to the Grandstand for my first-ever rodeo show, which featured Saddle Bronc, Barrel Racing, Tie-Down Roping, Steer Wrestling, Bareback and most exhilarating of all to watch, Bull Riding. The afternoon had begun with the entire grandstand bathed in sunlight, but a cool shadow stole over the venue as the afternoon wore on. While I’ve attended the Calgary Stampede in previous years, I’ve only ever checked out the midway and exhibitions, but otherwise, had never actually seen any rodeo events, so it was quite a unique and memorable experience to watch the events that are at the heart of the Stampede.

  • After enjoying the Unagi Sushi Taco, I ventured into the exhibition halls to see what arts were being displayed. This year, the BMO Centre is undergoing some dramatic changes: like the University of Calgary, which has seen massive construction projects, the Stampede Grounds are being upgraded. They had begun demolishing the Stampede Corral in 2020 after an assessment in 2016 found it was no longer viable to bring the building up to code. At present, the framework to the new structure is up, and it is expected that construction will conclude next summer. Fortunately, the exhibitor hall and Western Oasis art displays were still present, and I cooled off in here with a root beer before heading back home.

  • With today’s events, I’m reminded of why Calgary’s workforce jokingly remark that for 10 days of July, all work grinds to a halt as workers from all occupations take time off, whether it’s personal time or company events, to visit the Stampede. Today was quite far removed from my usual routine: I am usually found sitting at my desk and churning away at my IDE, or else pacing around whilst conceptualising solutions. This Stampede visit was a nice break from routine, and I’m left ready to relax this weekend before returning on Monday to continue with my current assignment.

  • Back in Routine Feat, I was pleasantly surprised to find a letter from the publisher and a pile of money in my mailbox after submitting the book. Players receive a small amount of money in their day job in Routine Feat, so to see this kind of money come in would probably be a shock. All of a sudden, melancholy and loneliness turns to joy. In reality, things would happen over a longer timeframe, but the outcomes are undeniable; hard work and perseverance is what brings about success, and having a routine allows one to be able to achieve their goals. Routine Feat works in a meta-gaming perspective: once players figure out the routine, they can easily advance the story and see the office worker realise his dreams.

  • I ended up taking the letter back into my room to read it, and it was a remarkably pleasant feeling: the office worker’s novel turns out to be a smash hit. The publishers have already ordered a hundred thousand copies and expect the book to sell very well. I did notice some HTML tags in the publisher’s letter, and in a few areas in Routine Feat, there are spelling mistakes, but these are comparatively minor, especially considering the rest of the game works smoothly. It felt fantastic to see the office worker succeed in his dreams, and the epilogue suggests that the office worker is able to pursue his own dreams freely now.

  • As a means of celebration, I gathered some of the items from the fridge and made the office worker a very nice meal: the usual eggs on toast was accompanied with sausage, cheese, tomato and cucumber, and then I decided to have an apple and banana, washed down with a glass of milk. Routine Feat automatically restocks the player’s refrigerator every time the player returns home or wakes up, so there’s always sufficient provisions. This aspect of Routine Feat was one I particularly liked, since it showed how while the office worker’s days might be monotonous, he’s still able to support himself well enough to pursue his own interests.

  • To wrap things up, I’ve climbed to the rooftop to get a look at the neighbourhood. There’s a bunch of beers up here, and after successfully publishing a book, it felt appropriate to crack open a beer and enjoy the summer evening. Routine Feat might be simple, but there is no denying that the game is successful with its messages. Further to this, aside from a few rough spots here and there, the game is polished. I’m impressed with how much fun I had in Routine Feat: while the game is not “fun” in a traditional sense, it was very instructive. I relate quite well to the environment and themes that Ignatov sought to convey, and so, Routine Feat became quite refreshing to play through.

Ignatov has expressed that the minimalism in Routine Feat and IT’S WINTER is deliberate: the game’s Steam Store description indicates that the theme is “overwhelming loneliness” that arises in a world dominated by isolation and abandonment. However, even on beautiful summer days with no one else around, Ignatov writes that one may find a sense of peace in taking the time to stop and smell the roses: the game was written with this in mind, and Ignatov has mentioned in an interview that the aim was to create a world that players could get lost in. Interactivity lies at the forefront of things in Routine Feat, and like IT’S WINTER, one can also deliberately choose not to hop on the bus and go to work. Instead, one could whip up a fantastic breakfast with the ingredients in their refrigerator, reorganinise their apartment and clear up the trash strewn about, or even go for a walk around the apartment block and take in the calm melancholy of a gentle morning. While Routine Feat offers this freedom to players, choosing to follow one’s routine by going to work, and then spending a little more time on the office worker’s novel, is where the game’s true genius shines: Routine Feat suggests that although one might seemingly be bound to monotony in their everyday lives, life is also what one chooses to make of things, and the familiarity offered by routine is what makes excitement so remarkable. This is why my own Calgary Stampede experience this year is particularly memorable: it was my first time attending the rodeo show as a part of a company-wide event, and after a lunch at the Rotary House, a rustic event venue, we watched the afternoon’s performances at the grandstand. I never imagined that, a decade after the morning I’d made the call to stay home and press forwards with MCAT revisions, I would have the opportunity to experience the Calgary Stampede in the most traditional way possible. On most days, my routine entails sitting down at my desk, reading through my day’s assignments and then opening an IDE to begin chipping away at my work. To be able to take a break of this sort was especially refreshing, although here, I note that things like the Calgary Stampede are so enjoyable precisely because they represent a break from routine.