Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Game Review: Mandagon

There are times when games catch me by surprise. Whether it is story elements, the enjoyment of game play or just being more than what I expected, there is something that pleasantly gives more than I thought I would receive. A game that has recently surprised me with more than I had anticipated is Mandagon.

Mandagon is a free to play Indie PC game developed by Blind Sky Studios. I am honestly not sure how to describe what genre it falls into, because it does not feel like it fits under one specific descriptor. In this game you play a stone totem, 2D platforming your way from statue to statue, map point to map point until you have successfully solved the puzzle that I wasn't sure I understood the answer to; or the question for that matter. And that was part of the fun.

The story behind the game is inspired by Tibetan philosophy on life, death and sacrifice. As you explore each area, the story unfolds. Who you are. Why you are here. What you are doing. I had this very strange feeling exploring this beautiful world while at the same time exploring thoughts about the end of life. Something so breathtaking juxtaposed with a topic usually seen as somber. It was a feeling that I can only describe as odd and unexpected.

The pixel art style of this game gives the feeling of platforming through picturesque temples and their surrounding villages. The soundtrack is very relaxing, almost meditative. And the game play is more focused on exploration than anything else. There are no enemies to fight, no levers to pull or boxes to push. You simply explore and understand. That is one of the main things I loved about Mandagon. There was no tutorial, no hand holding, nothing to tell you what to do next. I simply explored at my leisure until I found the answer.

My hang ups about this game are minor. One, the game is very short. I was finished in a little over an hour. Mandagon definitely left me wanting more of this game and wanting to see more content from Blind Sky Studios. My second gripe was that I had basically been given the answer to what was going on in game by just reading the game description on Steam. Personally, I think that took away a bit of the unveiling and realization I would have gotten if the game description had been a little less giving of details and I had been allowed to piece together the complete story on my own.

All in all, Mandagon is a lovely game that I highly recommend trying. It is on Steam right now for free and can be played on PC, Mac and Linux. The game soundtrack and art book are also on sale currently for $3.99

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Day the Dragon Came Again

For the past several months, I have been in love with a Twitch show called Critical Role. And of course it wasn't going to be long before I couldn't stop myself from writing some fan fiction. If you have not gotten to Episode 40, then be warned that this has some light spoilers. Hope you enjoy. And check out Critical Role live on Twitch on Thursday nights 7pm PST.

It was late. The only remaining light was the ominous orange burn coming from the distance, clawing at the stained glass along the temple walls. Exhaustion sank itself into every one. Every man, woman and child. And yet, all anyone of them could manage were fitful and restless bouts of sleep, plagued by horror and nightmares. And even that evaded some, forcing them to lie awake and relive the horror over and over again.

He stood there silently, tucked away in the shadows. He looked at the disheveled group who now called Greyskull Keep their refuge. The few who had escaped the wrath of the Chroma Conclave. Unlike the others outside the gates, whose terror stricken visages were on display. A cruel menagerie of tormenting reminders. Here they were, huddled heaps of dismay, desperation and loss, wrapped up in whatever blankets could be found. But it wasn’t them, the few of them, who drew his attention. It was only one. One person lying in the midst of that misery.

Vax wanted to step forward, step out of the shadows, move towards him. But he couldn’t. His feet, which normally flew ever so quickly, were now leaden and kept him staunchly in place. Kept him there, in the dark, hiding from what was in front of him.  A mere handful of hours ago, Gilmore had been a sight to behold. As he always was. Best of robes, crushed blue velvet in color. Curly raven black hair held neatly in place. And that ever present wide smile that decorated a beautifully handsome face. With him, it was always about presentation. But not now, not any more. The dragons had come. Just like before, with fire, terror and destruction.

Vax simply watched from his dark corner. Watched and thought. He had been no more of a help tonight as he would have been to his mother on the night her home had faced the same fate. The robes now slashed, burned and stained with blood. The curly hair now stuck to a feverish and pale face. Someone else who Vax cared deeply for was almost torn from him by the same monster who had taken from him before. What had Vax been doing all of this time? Yes, he had grown. Yes, he had learned. Yes, he was a man now, a powerful man. A powerful man with powerful friends. But what had that done for Emon? What had that done for Gilmore?

Gilmore’s head shifted on the pillow underneath it. With eyes still closed, his lips parted.

“Someone is brooding very loudly over there.”

Though weak, the deepness of Gilmore’s voice still sounded solid. And calming. Vax’s first instinct was to quietly walk away. To not face this lump building in his throat. Not here. Not with Gilmore. However, walking away after tonight, after what had almost happened, felt worse.

“I thought you would be asleep,” Vax replied in a low voice.

Gilmore slowly opened his eyes and turned his head as the half-elf approached. Even though Vax was now standing where Gilmore could see him, he might as well have brought the shadows with him as somber as his face appeared.

“Oh my, such sad eyes and heavy shoulders.”

Vax didn’t answer.  Vax didn’t want to speak. Being this close, imagining what could have happened if Pike had not been there. The ache in his chest crushed his lungs with every breath. The growing hollow in his stomach was swallowing him piece by piece. It was another day the dragon had came. What had he been doing all this time?

“Nothing has changed, Gilmore,” Vax finally sputtered out, doing everything he could to keep his voice even, “Nothing at all. The most important people in my life and I can’t…”

Vax stopped, clenching his jaw before he continued on, “You were right in front me and all I could do was sit there…”

“My dear Vax’ildan,” Gilmore whispered, “Come. Sit with me now.”

Vax sat on the edge of the bed, head falling forward as he stared at the stone tiles of the temple floor, “How much will this Cinder King take, Gil? How much more is it going to rip away from me?”

There was silence. A silence weighed down by everything that wanted to be said, but there were no words for them. Vax felt a gentle warmth as Gilmore’s hand slowly slid over his own. The corners of Vax’s eyes burned as he blinked back the watery blur that was beginning to distort his vision.

 “This is where I am supposed to tell you everything is going to be fine. That we will find a way out of this. But honestly, I don’t know that to be true. Even I have doubts at this point. But what I do know is that you have always survived. Beyond all odds, you, Vax, always survive. This is no different.”

Vax shifted his gaze and peered at the ruggedly handsome face that weakly grinned back at him. Still grinning, because it was always about presentation. Vax shifted his hand so that Gilmore’s fingers fell between his. This close, Vax could smell the familiar scent of incense that usually permeated Gilmore’s clothing intertwined with smoke, sweat and blood.

“I hope you don’t believe that. That all I care about is simply my survival.”

“Then obviously something has changed then.”

Vax slowly leaned down and gently laid his forehead against Gilmore’s.

“I’m going to protect you,” Vax whispered earnestly, “I swear it on my life.”

“Good,” Gilmore whispered back.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Kitchen Adventures! - Broccoli Cheddar Quinoa Bites

Hello again. I think it is time for another foray into the kitchen. This time I decided to try out a quinoa dish. To be honest, I had never made anything that involved quinoa before trying this dish out. In fact, I had a hard time figuring out how to pronounce it for a while there. But, through the powers of Pinterest, I found a recipe that was a daring enough to try out.

The ingredients were very simple: quinoa, broccoli, cheese, eggs and garlic. And the recipe did not take a lot of prep time at all. Which, for me, is an extra plus. As for taste, I was very happy with it. It is very light and the paprika gives it a smoky flavor. For being my first introduction to quinoa, this wasn't bad at all.

I made this  dish in a mini muffin pan, so I had bite size bites. But I'm sure that if you wanted to put the mixture in a normal sized muffin pan, it would work as well. Made it as a side dish for my family's holiday dinner and they really seemed to enjoy it. Even saw some family members packing up what was left over to take home with them.

Definitely will be making these again. If you would like to try this recipe out for yourself, you can find the recipe here: Broccoli Cheddar Quinoa Bites from Alida's Kitchen Happy Cooking!

Friday, January 1, 2016

New Year's: Starting the Next Chapter

 A new year has rolled around and I will confess, it has caught me off guard this time around. Usually one has a list of resolutions and/or goals ready, waiting for that first day of the new year to roll around to execute them. I have not made one. Not technically anyway.

First, I want to go over the past year and remember the journey I just finished. A huge chapter in my life closed this year. Something that I had been working long and hard on for years is finally finished and over with. No longer in limbo, no longer waiting. Everything is over and done and my career path can continue. Now, I am continuing on into something new, in a new place, with new faces. I have a lot of excitement for what is coming next, wrapped with a small tinge of apprehension. But that is what happens whenever you embark something new, right?

I had ups and downs this year, sure, but things ended rather brilliantly. I got a chance to interact with people who helped me to unlock the best side of myself. I got a chance to make new friends and reunite with old ones. And my want to be an overwhelming force for good could not have been more bolstered than it was this year.

So what do I want for this new year? What are the goals I am setting up for myself as 2016 gets under way? 

Keeping Creating

I want to write and sketch more this year. And make more YouTube videos as well. These are things that I want to do well and the only way to get better is to keep doing them on a consistent basis.

Stay Centered

Life tends to get hectic and priorities get out of sort. You aren't taking care of your body, your mind, your soul, your relationships, your responsibilities, etc. This past year, I started doing something about it. Always being mindful to make sure that my priorities were what they should be and where they should be.

Be Overwhelmingly Positive

It is so easy to fall in the trap of being negative, down and gloomy. It's easy to find the bad in situations and people, to point out all the failures and short comings. But that is no way to live life. At least not for me. However, I don't want to be positive just for myself, but to bring others in it with me. Because life is more fun that way.

So those are my goals for this year. I think it will be enough to keep me busy. How about you guys? What are you planning on doing for your 2016?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Daily Write - Bending Reality

This all blurs together into a sameness after a while. I walk in, sit down and it starts. Sure, there are some differences in the minutia. Where I find them. When I find them.Who they were before I found them. But, ultimately, it is nothing more than variations on a theme. Their eyes, their faces, their body language, always the exact same.

I never get to them before others have had a chance to poke around. Makes my work that much harder. Once peeling past the staunchly built walls of self preservation and distrust, I am usually attacked with lashing barbs of bottled up anger and exasperation. Or their loathsome seething churned mostly from confusion, fear, and broken promises of being "fixed". They always search for a reaction, not caring what it is. They are reaching for something, anything, that will connect them to me, to something familiar, to something normal. But there is never a reason for me to react. Never.

It is at this point I tell them to stop talking or yelling or crying or whatever personalized touch they have added to the overarching motif. Because, now, I tell them the truth. Now, I tell them everyone they have ever met, ever spoken to, liked, loved or hated, has lied to them. Lied repeatedly. And I watch them react. This is the only part I cannot predict, like an ad lib riff for flare.

Lied to because no one fathomed that the world around us was not as stable, as solid, as concrete as we want to believe it is. And  no one  understood  that among us were those who could lift reality, like removing a veil clouding one's vision. See beyond comprehension and explanation into a vast, untapped, unknown as if staring into a darkened waters. They aren't imagining things, suppressing memories or whatever nonsense their numerous therapists have told them. They see the actual truth while rest of the world flounders lies and misconception.

Their stares are always the same, room for poetic license and personalizations of course, but the theme continues. I never react. I expect them to look this way. They are rare beings and I have found them. And now, I ask them the question:  Do you want to learn to bend the world?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Writing Thoughts

It has been a while since I just sat and wrote a post that was simply me putting my feelings on a page. I figured now was as a good a time as any. Sorry guys, no pictures this time. There are a huge number of things that have been going on that I want to talk about, but for sake of time I'll limit it to one, writing.

I have not posted a story for a while and that is because I have no finished stories to post. And I feel extremely guilty for that. That was what this blog was supposed to be for. This blog was supposed to be me writing something every day. And I have failed that challenge miserably.

It is not that I have lack of ideas. It is that I have don't sit down and finish anything that I have worked on. And that really kills me inside. I want to share my stories on this blog, but they just never seem good enough or polished enough. And some just simply aren't finished.

I tell myself, why not work on something shorter and easier. This way you have more material to post. But I just don't have the ability to write a short story. For some reason, I believe that everything I write has to be some sort of epic tale that has to span across a book series. I don't know what it is to whittle a story down to its simplest form and put the essence of that in a few pages. I'm pretty sure that I just practiced writing with a word limit, I could overcome this. But for now, it is just me writing long works or posting snippets from long works.

I am working on finishing something currently. And when it is finished, I believe that it will be one of my better stories (at least that is what I'm hoping). But, my impatience is getting the better of me. I want the story to be finished already. I want to show people, because I have been talking about it for a while. And it frustrates me, because I can already tell that I am going to need to edit this story several times before I get to where I want it. Don't get me wrong, I am having fun writing "Gold and Gunpowder" (the working title). The story interests me, so I am hoping that the readers are just as interested in these characters as I am. However, crafting of this story is taking longer than I had first expected. And I have no idea if that is a good or bad thing. Sure, I don't want to put out something that could have been better. But overthinking and overworking a story is not good either.

I went looking for some writing inspiration, so I started paying more attention to writers and writing organizations on social media. Normally, my Twitter was nothing more than people talking about video games, because I mostly followed Twitch streamers and people who are part of the Twitch community. I was quite amazed at the difference shifting gears made. Now, I see tweets talking about books, summer reading lists, quotes from well known authors and things of that nature. I don't know why it mattered that I now see these things on my timeline, but it does. I suppose it is because I feel part of a larger group. There are others out there creating. It's not just me.

So, my current writing plans...I am probably going to spend the afternoon working on "Gold and Gunpowder" and see how much head way I make. And I already have a second story waiting to be put on my editing table "Child of Prophecy: The Awakening". I feel like the title is much cooler than the story will be. But only because there was a lot of back story that went into me writing this and I think it will probably be lost on everyone that wasn't part of the forums where these characters were first created. It's like writing a huge inside joke and you just hope you are doing it well enough that the reader doesn't need to the context to enjoy the story.

So there, my thoughts for the day :)

Saturday, July 4, 2015

What I'm Watching: Team Medical Dragon

It is interesting how I find new shows to watch. I was having a conversation with a friend about a musical composer who we both liked. My friend told me that this composer had done music for a Japanese drama called Team Medical Dragon and he strongly suggested that I watch it. I will be completely honest, the name of this show didn't really instill any confidence in me. In fact, I dragged my feet a bit before finally watching it (at my friend's behest, I might add). Now that I have seen it, there isn't enough good things to say about it.

Team Medical Dragon is a medical drama that centers around one man, Dr. Ryutaro Asada, a virtuoso in the area cardiovascular surgery. He is so talented, he has been dubbed a surgical genius. However, his moral convictions about how one should act as a medical professional causes him to challenge his superiors and eventually gets him blacklisted from the Japanese medical community. Several years pass and Asada is given the opportunity to re-enter the surgical community, despite the black mark on his name. But only because of one simple reason. He is the only surgeon in the country who is skilled enough to undertake one of the riskiest heart surgeries known, the Batista.

This show is brilliant on so many levels. There are numerous power struggles layered through out the show. The struggle against corrupt authority, to fall in with the crowd or to stand alone on your beliefs, finding one's personal convictions and understanding your true self, the show goes through all of these and more with seamless continuity. I also love the medicine that is shown on the show. There is always a thorough explanation of what is happening while the surgical procedures are taking place or being discussed. I cannot express how much I adore shows that take the time to get the medical aspects of the situation correct and present it in a logical manner. (Time Slip Dr. Jinn does a good job in this same area).

And of course, I have to talk about the music. I don't believe I have ever been so excited, anxious, and on the edge of my seat while watching surgeons walking down a hallway to the operating room. It is like watching a group of superheroes slowly stroll out to the battlefield. Sawano does a magnificent job with the score on this drama series. My favorite song from the soundtrack right now is Dragon Rises. You should give it a listen.

Team Medical Dragon has 4 seasons and currently can be viewed on Crunchyroll ( for anyone who is interested in watching. I highly recommend watching it. It is well written, you become invested in the all characters almost from the moment they appear on the screen. And there is no lack of plot twists and surprises. In my opinion, this show is absolutely wonderful.