Friday, June 9, 2017

Technical difficulties . . . please stand by

It’s been a stressful rough couple of weeks for me. 

For starters: I had 2 vacations planned back to back (not my idea or the original plan) and I had to take my car in for an oil change (overdue) and other general upkeep and maintenance.  Somehow that turned into a $1,200 bill.  Now that’s a lot of money.  My car is an older car (2001) and I’ve been thinking about getting a new one, but I wanted to be debt free (except for my house) before I got a new one.  That bill has pushed that thought back a couple of months or more.

Next: I bought a new mattress and box springs and had the delivery date changed on me 6 times before I finally got them to deliver the goods.  Of course I had to threaten them that I would cancel my order and take my business elsewhere if they weren’t delivered by a specific date.  They were but I only had 3 nights sleeping on that wonder soft fluffy cloud of heaven before I had to head out on vacation.

Vacation #1: My first vacation was stressful because I was traveling to a place I’ve never been and I was responsible for all the expenses.  It was a bit relaxing (almost to the point of boredom) even if I didn’t really get out of the heat.  It was nice to get away from the rat race, but also nice to get home again.

Vacation #2: I was only home for 3 days before I left again on a family reunion.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love my family but being trapped with all of them in one house (there were 16 of us which wasn’t everybody) for 3 days is not the relaxing vacation I like.  There was chaos, crying children, glasses broken, coyotes barking, howling and killing in the middle of the night and my brother snoring like a lumber jack and keeping me up all night.  It’s hard to go from my quiet, peaceful existence to something that resembles more of disaster movie than my idyllic life.  Like I said, I love my family but I’m not use to being around so many temperamental kids.  And don’t even get me started on being trapped in the very small back seat of a pickup truck for almost 6 hours going and almost 8 hours coming back (stupid construction delays). 

When I got home I was very excited to film some more videos and edit them for my channel.  I did.  And then I tried to edit them.

When I went on my first vacation there wasn’t going to be anyone home so I took all those valuables that I didn’t want stolen and secured them elsewhere so they’d be safe while I was gone and house was empty.  Unfortunately, when stashing my audio mixer, the settings got messed up.  For some reason I didn’t check them too carefully (I only checked the volume setting) and went and recorded a couple of videos.  I don’t know why I didn’t even do a mic check before recording.  I guess being on vacation really fried my brain.

When I listened to the audio recording while syncing up the files I realized how bad it was.  Oh shit!  I didn’t know what went wrong and I didn’t know how to fix it.  I did a lot of research trying to find a way to minimize the damage (there was no way I would be able to fix it completely) and I learned a lot . . . and learned that there is still a LOT more that I don’t know.  All of the videos I posted this week had bad audio.  Hopefully I know enough now to fix the problem with the things that I want to film this weekend.  If not, well I’ll have to think of something else.

Spring must be the season of technical difficulties.  I was having issue with the audio and gameplay tracks getting out of sync the longer the video was.  Then there was the gameplay audio was getting out of sync from the gameplay video even though they were on the same track.  None of these problems were evident while playing, but only were noticeable once I was editing.  It made things very frustrating.  I even changed up my posting schedule to give myself more time to editing some of the more difficult files.  I learned a lot then too.

To fix those problems I had to end up uninstalling both Audacity and Elgato and reinstalling them.  Once I did that, things were back to normal.  And that was when I went on vacation and I came back to another set of issues.  It is so frustrating because there are so many things I want to do with my YouTube channel and other things that I just don’t have time for because I’m dealing with all this crap.  I’ve been posting videos for 2 years now and it really doesn’t seem that long, but I also think I should be further along in my plan than where I am at now at this point. 

It also doesn’t help that I don’t have any support in what I’m doing.  My family thinks it’s a waste of my time and just don’t understand that I enjoying do things like this.  My friends just want to play games and aren’t interesting in making content with me.  It doesn’t really matter though because I’m going to continue to keep doing what I love whether anyone supports me or watches my videos.  The whole point of this was to finish games and have fun.  While I am finishing games (I’m almost done with 2 more that might be done before the end of the month), I’m really not having a lot of fun right now.  Things will get better.  Whatever else goes wrong I’ll figure out how to fix and I will move on.  So if you watch my channel and notice technical difficulties . . . please stand by.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Pengwenn: The Origins Story

I've been thinking a lot about where "Pengwenn" all began.  It was in August of 2004 actually.

I love to write.  But writing can be a lonely endeavor.  I had a subscription to Writer's Digest and each year they put out a list of "101 Websites for Writers".  This particular year I wanted to find like-minded souls that I could commiserate with when things were bad, and celebrate with when things were good.  I checked out several of the sites listed and settled on as the one I wanted to join.  The only problem was I didn't have a screen name and I refused to use my own name to sign up.  The internet was for anonymity and privacy. 

My brother and I sent the day throwing names back and forth trying to find just the right screen name for me.  We just couldn't come up with something that fit my personality and that I liked.  We took a break for a while and we got back together my brother had the perfect name ready for me: Pen-gwenn.  That's how it wanted it shown so people would know my name right away but still see how to say it.  I took out the hyphen.

I signed up on the website and the rest is history.  Sort of.

When it came time to sign up to Xbox Live and create a gamertag I seriously thought about creating a separate name for gaming then the Pengwenn I had for writing.  After all, gaming and writing are two different things.  But the more I thought about it.  Pengwenn was who I really was.  Or who I really wanted to be.  It was me.  I've been Pengwenn ever since every where I can be online. 

When I created a Twitter account I couldn't use just Pengwenn so I used I_Pengwenn (or something like that).  I didn't really use that account and years later when I decided that I wanted to be more active on Twitter I had forgotten about that account.  I still couldn't use Pengwenn so I created a new one and settled on @PengwennGamer since I would use it mostly for gaming.

I grew up in a VERY conservative house and community.  Where "gosh darn it" was a vile swear word and we weren't allowed to say that.  We weren't allowed to get angry and yell at people either.  That wasn't very nice.  But being Pengwenn online I finally find a place where I can be me and break free of those conservative constraints.  I challenge anyone to play a game of Call of Duty online and NOT get angry or want to swear at someone. 

Pengwenn isn't an alternate persona for me.  It's not an act.  I'm very much Pengwenn in real life.  Except that Pengwenn doesn't have bills to pay, bathrooms to clean, laundry to do, etc.  You know, all those things you have to do in real life just to exist.  Gwenn has to dress a certain way to go to work.  Pengwenn can wear nothing at all if she feels like it (and when it gets up to 110 degrees or more who would want to).  Gwenn has to guard her tongue when she gets mad at work.  Pengwenn lets it fly . . . even if she's just made at herself.  I'm much more comfortable as Pengwenn.  No constraints.  No restrictions.  No limits.  And I actually prefer to be called Peng or Pengy instead of Gwenn or Gwenny.  Even in real life.  It just sounds more like me.

Don't get me wrong.  I love my name in real life.  It's unique enough without being totally weird and out there.  That's also what Pengwenn is too.  My brother explained that a penguin is a very unique bird.  It has feathers, but doesn't fly.  It's more agile and graceful in an area that you would least expect (water).  I'm not what anyone expects.  I dance and do other girlie things, yet I'm not a girlie girl.  I like sports.  Not just watching them, but playing them.  Yet I'm not a tomboy either.  I'm just me.  The unexpected, flightless, swimming bird.  We tried not to make comparisons to me waddling around when I walk but I think that part is coming true the older I get.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

2 Year Anniversary on YouTube

Today is my 2 year anniversary of posting video on YouTube.  I can’t believe it’s been that long.  Thanks to YouTube I’ve finished a bunch of games with several more about to be finished.  Before I started my channel I don’t know that I would have been able to say I’ve finished ANY games.  I’m not perfect.  Not even close.  But I’m getting better.  (I will never be perfect because there are just too many games out there to play.)

What have I learned:

It take a lot of time to get a video filmed, edited and posted on YT.  Sometimes I wish I could just film and someone else do the editing and posting.  Other times I wish someone else would play the games and I could just edit them.  I’m currently in a “I like to film” phase.  I’m hoping to store up a lot of videos to edit later when I’m in that “I like to edit phase”.

I still don’t have a rhyme or reason to what I post and when I do it.  With the exception of the month of October (scary/spooky/Halloween games) and a military game for Veteran’s Day in November.  It’s hard to pick a game around a holiday but those 2 holidays make it easier.  I’ve tried planning on playing an older game when a new sequel comes out but I can’t time it right so I never know when to start filming or posting them.  Maybe I’ll figure that out later.

If says it takes about 10 hours to complete a game it will probably take me about 18-20.  I thorough and ’m a completionist.  I like to check every nook and cranny in a place before moving on to the next.  And sometimes I have to check 2 or 3 times because I was talking and not paying any attention to what I was doing so I might have missed something.  It’s probably annoying to watch.  I know it’s annoying to me but I can’t help myself.  It’s a small OCD thing that I have that even gets on my nerves (but not as much as if I DIDN’T check everything a couple of times before moving on).

If I have to concentration and focus really hard to get through a difficult section of the game (like a boss fight or tough puzzle) I tend to get really quiet.  I don’t know how other YouTubers can carry on a conversation yet still focus on the problem at hand.  I can’t seem to divide my attention enough to do either one of those things well in those situations.  So I usually just keep my mouth shut and concentrate on the game.  Maybe I’ll get better . . . .

I don’t think I’ll ever get better at video games.  Even though I’m playing more than I use to, I don’t think I’m learning anything to make me better.  My reflexes aren’t getting any better.  My problem solving skills aren’t improving.  Sometimes I even think I might be digressing and going backwards.  I’m still having fun so I’ll keep playing.

Some games are so much easier to edit than others.  The Lego games are easy to edit.  Other games like Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits and Dark Cloud are a little more time consuming to do.  A lot of that has to do with load screens.  Some games have a lot of them.  Some have really long ones.  And some have a lot of them that last a really long time.  Personally when I’m watching videos online, I find it frustrating to sit there for 10 seconds (or more) staring at a blank screen because it’s a load screen.  Edit those dead spaces out!!!  I do.  For some games that’s tough.  For others it’s a dream.

I never thought I would like the editing process.  It seemed the most tedious and boring part of the whole thing.  At first, it really was boring and tedious.  The more I’m doing it the more I find I like it.  Even when I’m not really in the mood to edit.  There’s something about the editing process that makes it more creative than what I feel when I’m playing the game.  If I could find a way to do that for a living I think I probably would.  There’s still A LOT about editing that I don’t understand and know, but I’m willing to learn.

Every game I play (or plan to play) I think of in terms of “will this make a good video/series”.  There has been one game that I filmed 3 videos in and when I went to edit it decided that it wouldn’t be a great game to post.  The game itself is not bad, it just doesn’t lend itself to compelling gameplay that I would want to watch if someone else was playing.  People have made videos in this game, but I can’t watch them for more than a couple of minutes at a time.  On the other hand there are games I really want to play and I know they would make a great series but I don’t have the time to devote to those games now so . . . I don’t play them.  This sucks and I don’t like it, but I don’t want to start a game and play it for a while only to restart it later because now I want to film it.  Tough choices man.

I’ve decided that I will play and post videos of the games that I want to play.  I’ll try really hard not to think that I’ve only got to play and post new games.  Or games that are famous.  Or popular.  It’s not fun to play a game when you feel like you’re being forced to.  It takes all the fun out of it.  If I want people to enjoy my games then I’ve got to enjoy them myself.  Even if I lose.  Or die a lot of times.  That’s why there’s a long time between videos for Psychonauts and Rayman Origins.  I’m not feeling those games right now so I won’t play them until I’m more excited to do so.  This means that I might be playing a bunch of older games that have been around for a decade or more.  I like some of those older games.  But I’ll also try to play things more current because I like those games too.  My channel will just be a smorgasbord of the things I like at any given moment.

For some games I think I want to have a big chunk of the game recorded before I start publishing the videos.  I find it easier to remember what to do, or remember what the controls are if I keep playing it for a while before I get in to a schedule of posting videos.  Not all games are like that.  The Lego games are easy to sit down and record just one level here and there as needed.  Not all games are like that.  I also think that having a large part of the game already recorded before posting gives me a better idea of how long the game will last.  Maybe I can do better at scheduling topical games if I do that.

Doing this is like having a second job.  I’m spending 20-30 hours of week to get 5 or so videos posted.  It’s not leaving a lot of room for any other hobbies or things I’d like to do.  It’s a sacrifice I’m still willing to make even if my family doesn’t understand why I do it.

Right now I still love what I’m doing and I will continue to record videos and post online.  I won’t stop until I no longer find any enjoyment out of playing games and finishing them.  And I don’t see that happening any time soon.  I love seeing my audience grow.  Slowly.  Little by little.  But it’s growing.  I love that.  And when I say I’m open to suggestions of what to play, I mean it.  I really am.  I might not get to it right away, but I’ll put it on the list of what to play next.  So far I have 6 or 7 on the list.  Some suggestions by friends, some for other reasons.  You’ll learn more about those later on.  All in all, it’s been a good couple of years.

Things to work on this next year:  1) learn how to use Photoshop and 2) make better thumbnails.  3) Make intro channel animated slate for videos (might need a LOT of help on this one).

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

2017: The Year of Playstation has begun

I have dubbed 2017 The Year of Playstation.  The majority of games that I will record and post to YouTube will be Playstation games.  I'll still throw in a few Xbox games from time to time (or on the weekends) but my main focus will be playing (and finishing) a bunch of Playstation games.

The first game I'm focusing on is Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits.  (click the link for the playlist on YouTube)  I'll be getting back to playing more Dark Cloud if I can ever get past this one dungeon level I'm stuck on.  I think I might have figured out how to do it so maybe some of those videos will be coming out soon too.

I'm working on making some upgrades to my gaming set up but until then I can't get my Playstation 3 hooked up.  I'm hoping to get that done this weekend so I can start recording PS3 games again.  I got Bioshock Infinite from my Secret Santa so that will be one game I play and record.  After Christmas I kind of splurged an quite a few PS3 games but I won't tell you what ones those are . . . you'll just have to watch my channel to find out. 

What do you want me to play?  If you have any suggestions, let me know.  If I don't have it, I'll try to find a copy.  I love shopping for video games.

The Working Girl's Game Review - Far Cry Classic

So the first game I'm going to try and give a thorough review for is Far Cry Classic,  Not exactly a modern game, but that's okay.  There might be people who played any of the other Far Cry games and might be interested in picking up the original and completing their collection.  Also, I can hone my skills at giving reviews.  This is new to me too.  I'll try to keep it spoiler free as much as possible, but a few things might have to be spoiled to explain a point I'm making.

Xbox 360 Arcade


You play as Jack Carver who is running a boat tour business.  His only costumer this time is a lovely lady journalist named Valerie Constantine.  Except she's not who she says she is.  More on that later.  While cruising around some archipelago islands their boat is attacked and Jack and Val are thrown in to the water.  Jack wanders ashore and now has to find his charge Val.  The locals aren't friendly and Jack has no idea where Val might be.  Jack finds a radio and receives a broadcast from Harland Doyle that he might know where Val is.  While he doesn't know whether or not to trust Doyle he just wants to get Val and get off the island.

The Island holds a lot of secrets.  A very big one is that there is a secret organization that's been experimenting with genetic engineering (specifically weaponizing) and this organization and mercenaries don't want this secret to come out.  Especially the main guy Krieger.  After Jack rescues Val she confuses that she's CIA and there to find out what happened to an undercover agent . . . Harland Doyle.  Val releases the mutants (called Trigens) thinking that they will help distract the mercenaries to make things easier for Jack.  Unfortunately that just creates a new enemy for Jack to fight.  Val wants to find all the data and destroy the lab.  Oh, did we mention that Jack is an ex Army Special Forces operative?  Nope, well you don't learn that right off the bat either.  Now you know why your player is so proficient in guns right from the get go.

Story score: 3 penguins

Jack seems okay.  He's got some snarky stuff to say in response to Doyle's instructions.  If the game mentioned he was ex-Armed Forces at the beginning of the game I missed it.  It wasn't until much later that you learn who he really is/was.  The whole first half of the game is all about rescuing Val so it makes it seem that she's incapably of doing it herself.  After you rescue her she's very capable of taking care of herself.  And if you play some of the later "escort" missions right you can get her to take out most of the enemies so you don't have to.  Doyle is not upfront about who he is either.  And there's another side to him as well.  But I won't spoil that.

Character score: 3 penguins

Game Mechanics:
The aiming and gun control was okay.  There was one thing that almost made me quit playing the game before I figured it out.  When you come across a new weapon you get the "Y" button prompt if you want to switch weapons.  That left me thinking I could only carry 3 weapons; primary, secondary and a pistol.  That is NOT true.  I was also left thinking that the only way I could heal was to find a med pack somewhere.  I couldn't figure out how to have one in my inventory.  I also found that I could cycle through 3 different types of grenades but I couldn't see them in my inventory.  In fact I couldn't find my inventory at all. 

It turns out that  you have to hold the left bumper to pull up your inventory wheel.  Once I did that it was amazing what I could do with my weapons.  And healing . . . oh, look at that I had a med kit in my inventory and never knew it.  I didn't want a pistol so now I could equip that and swap it out for a better gun.  I didn't figure this out until almost half way through the game.  I had to go online to find help because I was so frustrated with the game.  There is NOTHING in the tutorial part, the menus, or the booklet for this game that explains how to pull up the wheel and use items on it (like much needed health kits).  I can't tell you how many times I died when I could have healed myself.  Once I figured this out the rest of the game was much easier . . . with one exception.

The other game mechanic that almost made me quit the game was the enemy concentration and spawn points.  There were too many times where there was hardly any enemies at all and then the next level you'd be surrounded by a hoard of them all the time.  The enemy concentration points were very unbalanced and it always happened at the worse time.  You'd be hit by a punch of enemies right at a check point . . . which is the only way to save your game.  If you died, you always came back right in the middle of all the enemies and usually at very low health (this is why it would have been good to know I was carrying around a med kit). 

The worse level for this was the River level.  I can't tell you how many times I hit a save point, died, respawned only to die instantly again.  There were 4 times in that level alone that I had to jump back a save just so I could survive spawning in.  It also took me about 30-40 minutes to survive long enough to get to a second check point after repeatedly dying at the previous one.  It made editing the level a nightmare.  I don't mind a little variety in the concentration level of enemies in section of the game but this game took it to the extremes and I hated that.

Game Mechanics: 1 penguin

Art Design:

The night time missions are dark.  I mean VERY dark.  I actually had to set up brightness all the way up just to see what was going on on the screen.  Too many times I walked in to a tree but didn't know that because I couldn't see the tree.  Once I uped the brightness it was so much more playable.  I left it all the way bright even for the daytime missions and it didn't blow out the image out so I just left it there for the whole game.

The game did look dated with flat graphics but it's an older game so I figure it for that.  I'm sure it looked stunning when it originally came out.

Art Design score: 3 penguins

Overall Impression:
After playing this game I'm left a little bewildered as to how this game launched the whole Far Cry franchise as I know it today.  This game seems very different from what I've seen of Far Cry 3,4 and Primal.  But I wanted to start at the beginning and see where everything started. 

I finished this game and I'm proud of that especially with all the problems I had playing it.  It's not one that I would play again.  And it's not a game that I would recommend to a casual gamer.  Only those who are completionists like me and who like to play a whole series of a franchise would get any 'enjoyment' from playing this game. 

The achievements are another thing that is not evenly spaced throughout the game.  They come in fits and spurts, especially towards the end.  Some of them you wouldn't think to do if you didn't read up on what the achievements are.  I played on easy and there's an achievement for playing on the hardest difficulty.  I don't think I'll get that one, although now that I know how things work I might make an attempt.  It just find it too frustrating to really put my heart in to it.  Once is enough for me.

Overall Impression score: 2 penguins (out of 5)