Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The 2018 Steam Awards

Have you placed your nominations for this year's Steam Awards, fellow gamers? Whether you have or not, here I will share my nominees for 2018!

The first thing I should mention about the award nominations this year is that they reduced the number of overall awards and made the categories less crazy. Keep it simple, Valve. Keep it simple.

Second, the nominations are happening at the same time, and the voting will take place during the December sale, but they apparently aren't announcing the winners until February -- leading me to believe the Winter sale will take place in early February instead of January in 2019. Alternatively, they may simply have a separate sale to feature the winners. Who knows?

That said, I'll get on with listing my nominees!

If you recall, I blogged about Doki Doki Literature Club earlier in the year. It's free, but it's phenomenal and really sticks with you. I think I coughed up plenty of spoilery things in THIS ENTRY, so I won't divulge anything here. If you haven't played it yet, download it now!

Admittedly, I did not play the VR version of Scanner Sombre, but it's the only game I have played this year that has a VR version. If you read my MARATHON RECAP, you know that the unique graphics in this game did a number on my eyes. I don't know if that would be better or worse playing a VR version, but the exploratory nature of the game and the way you reveal the terrain makes it an obvious nominee for the VR category.

By now you really should know that the game I play the most is The Lord of the Rings Online. If you know this and still haven't tried it, then I don't know what's wrong with you. The game has been going for 11 years now, and is still getting new quest areas, new cosmetics, new storylines, new gameplay. It has become a massive world, and I absolutely love it. Despite its age, it also has absolutely gorgeous landscapes that are obviously crafted by people who really care about it. You can see some great examples by visiting Middle Earth by Joego which showcases fantastic screenshots as well as running giveaways for the super nerdy Tolkien fans.

If you don't know who Obsidian Entertainment is, then you probably don't play games much or you're very young and simply don't pay attention to such things just yet. Let me list off some of their titles for you: Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II; Neverwinter Nights 2; Fallout: New Vegas; South Park: The Stick of Truth; Pillars of Eternity; Tyranny; Pathfinder Adventures; and the reason I'm nominating them: Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire. I haven't played all of those games, but I am a HUGE fan of the Pillars of Eternity games. The stories are phenomenal, and your choices really (I mean, REALLY) affect how the game goes for your character. The amount of created lore alone is great -- I even purchased the beautifully crafted and lore-packed Guidebook (NOT a strategy guide!). Downside? They've been acquired by Microsoft -- so RIP, Obsidian. You deserve this award.

I acquired AER: Memories of Old from a Humble Monthly pack, and I was sold the moment I read I could FLY around between floating islands in the world to discover and unravel the mysterious story. Because of this, the game world is both beautiful and challenging to navigate. Realism isn't the goal in the graphics, but the stylization used is breathtaking all the same. (The best part was when a lamb fell in love with me and wanted to follow me around. TOO ADORABLE!)

Yes, Town of Salem is another game from the Marathon, and I have been playing it as much as I play LOTRO! What could improve my experience of the game? If I had friends to play it with me. I've convinced one former Extra Life teammate to try it, but imagine if I could have a whole in-game town of my friends playing together? It would be hilarious and amazing! (If you decide to pick up this game, feel free to put me down as your referral: snarkqueen.)

Alright, to be fair, I haven't been playing Assassin's Creed: Odyssey on my PC, I play it on the PS4. But the game exists on PC, too, so... that's good enough for me! And while it doesn't necessarily portray an alternate history, the whole bit with the animus and going back into the past lives of ancestors is close enough for me. And have you seen this game at all? This is the kind of game that addictive personalities lose their jobs and relationships for. It's beautiful, well-made, and the fighting doesn't feel tedious like it sometimes does in earlier Assassin's Creed games. Plus, I get to redeem up to 12 codes from Totino's products for free in-game goodies. I like being rewarded for eating pizza rolls, like any good gamer.

No, I haven't been playing NieR: Automata on PC either. But it's the only game I've played this year that has obvious robots in it -- and is worth mentioning. I'm sure a contender for this award will be Warframe. People suddenly realized, after a few years of it being out, that it's actually a viable game. The sheeple astound me sometimes. Anyway, NieR has a fantastic storyline -- even if it's absolutely cray-cray. The guy at GameStop who told my husband and I to look up YouTube videos to catch up on the backstory insisted we'd be hooked. Instead, we watched THIS VIDEO from start to finish, and when it was over we removed our headphones, slowly looked at each other, and simultaneously muttered, "what?!"  So yeah, the story has been pretty cray-cray leading up to this point in the overall story, and... well, I maybe read a spoiler about the ending of NieR -- but I won't spoil it for you! The info makes me want to play it to see how it plays out to get to that point and how the characters respond.

So there are all my nominees! And if you did the above tasks like I did you'll have earned this year's Nomination Committee Badge. Now all that's left to do is see who the finalists are in December and vote for the best!

Like last year's entry about the Steam Awards, today is Giving Tuesday. I'd like to remind my readers that I am still fundraising until the end of December. There are kids who didn't get to see family or be at home last week for Thanksgiving and who will be spending the rest of the holidays in the hospital for various treatments. If you're looking for a worthwhile charity to support today, please consider the kids at Children's National and click on the image below to make a donation on my Extra Life page.

And thank you all for reading and supporting my fundraising efforts!

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Spicy Challenge Poll Results & Other Milestones

I promised to do a Spicy Challenge if I reached my $1,000 goal for Extra Life this year, and I let you vote to decide which challenge I would do. Here are the results!

17.2% Samyang Nuclear 2X Spicy Ramen (8,808 Scoville units)
34.5% 10 wings feat. Hot Ones' Last Dab sauce (+2 million Scoville units)
10.3% World's Hottest Lollipop (+9 million Scoville units)
37.9% World's Hottest Chocolate Bar (+9 million Scoville units)

You successfully chose THE hottest option and most difficult challenge! I'm not sure if I should thank you all or wonder just how much you hate me!

As you can see from the picture (which I took today after the bar arrived in the mail), it is a very small bar of chocolate. The bar is segmented into 12 pieces. The official challenge is to eat one piece of the bar every 60 seconds and to see how many pieces you can finish. Most videos of people I have seen only succeed in eating 1-4 pieces.

While I'm at it, I'll explain what the whole Scoville units thing is for those who don't understand!

Devised by Wilbur Scoville in 1912, a Scoville Unit is a measurement of capsaicin level in a particular pepper or variety. Capsaicin is what makes peppers taste hot. Concentrated in the veins of the pepper, the compound stimulates your nerve endings and makes your brain think that you are in pain. 
Scoville heat units (SHU) are simply a measurement of sugar-water. The Scoville Organoleptic Test measures chili heat by figuring out how much sugar-water needs to be diluted into a chili pepper mash to get to the point where you no longer feel the heat at all. 
The example given by pepperscale.com is: Say you have a teaspoon of jalapeno pepper. How many teaspoons of sugar-water do you need to dilute into it until you couldn't taste any heat whatsoever? That's the test, and the answer is the Scoville heat units. 
A cup of mashed jalapeno that's labelled 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville heat units would take anywhere from 2,500 to 8,000 cups of sugar-water to dilute it to zero heat. The range exists instead of an exact number because of variances existing in peppers of the same type depending on growing factors like soil and region. 
Originally, there were taste testers that were needed to complete this test, but today high performance liquid chromatography is used which measures the amount of capsaicin in the pepper itself to define the heat. Scientists take their results from this test and then convert them back into Scoville heat units.

Knowing that, and looking back up at the poll results, I know I am in for a world of pain. But I won't be alone, and I'll have other people on hand to help me if it goes poorly! Friends have agreed to help film the challenge and have plenty of milk, ice cream, etc. on hand for my poor mouth. My husband will attempt to interview me about Extra Life and gaming while I try to endure the blistering chocolate!

I don't have a date yet for when this will happen or a video will be made available. I have a long list of other Milestone Incentives to make good on, too!

An approximated (but not guaranteed) schedule looks like this:

1.) All donors will receive 2 pieces of digital artwork via e-mail for Christmas.
2.) Sometime during December I will play and blog about Dead Mountaineer's Hotel.
3.) Also in December, I have a donor-sponsored entry to do about LOTRO's Yule Festival.
4.) I will finish off December by playing a sports game.
5.) In January, I will have a blog entry about a cheap romance novel (which I have already read *gag*).
6.) January will also be when I torture myself with Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy.
7.) Sometime in January/February you will see a video of me singing "Let It Go."
8.) February will be for playing a Dark Souls game AND watching the Twilight movies.
9.) If I can keep to this schedule, I'll get the Spicy Challenge done by my birthday (Feb 28th).

That's a lot, but I owe you all a lot for helping me raise so much money this year! And please don't forget, I can still accept donations through the end of December! For each $100 past my goal, I'll come up with new milestone incentives to make good on! And you can expect another Spicy Challenge on next year's list -- probably the lollipop or hot wings!

Thank you again to ALL of my donors! Please feel free to comment with any feedback or suggestions about the milestone incentives from this year so I can make an even better list for next year!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Marathon Day Recap: 2018 Edition

For the 10th Anniversary of Extra Life, and my 6th year of participation, I clicked and pressed my way through 18 games over the course of 25 hours. This is what happened!

Saturday, November 3, 2018
7:30 AM

My alarm goes off, and I get myself out of bed. I turn on my computer, go heat up breakfast hot pockets in the kitchen, and bring them back to my computer along with a Vanilla Doubleshot. I am ready to start this!

I open up the marathon channel on my Extra Life server on Discord, and find a few friends and team mates there and ready to get going.

8:00 AM
Glass Masquerade

Expectations: A puzzle game based on stained glass. Stained glass is pretty.
Reality: A puzzle game based on art deco and stained glass, with beautiful music and a variety of difficulty for the puzzles themselves. The progression path is based on world countries, so the artwork is thematic and relevant to the locations. The puzzles themselves are presented in a unique way. You are given fragments of stained glass in concentric circles around the face of a clock (where the pieces go), but they only appear as silhouettes. When you pick them up, they rotate and show their colors/patterns. The chimey/piano music is very whimsical and added a lovely touch to the game. It made for a very pleasant first game of the day/marathon.

I have, since the marathon, gone back and finished the main game as well as the two available DLCs. My only disappointment is not being able to find the music for the Halloween DLC available anywhere. It is also fun to try beating my previous times for the puzzles. Most were finished in less than 10 minutes; only one took me about 18 minutes to complete.

Lyrak: CRAP I accidentally killed my husband
snarkqueen: ^ Things said while playing Skyrim for $500, Alex.
Lyrak: We're... just... gonna load that game again.

9:00 AM
Battle Chef Brigade Deluxe

Expectations: There's cooking and fighting and OH LOOK -- THE LOGO HAS DRAGONS!
Reality: Very selfish main character made this hard to enjoy from a story standpoint. "I'M GONNA RUN AWAY FROM HOME BECAUSE I WANT TO, EVEN IF IT MAKES THINGS HARDER FOR MY ALREADY STRUGGLING PARENTS AND MEANS STEALING MONEY TO DO IT." The sister makes sure she has enough underwear and stationery... then gives her a cookie jar that somehow bestows +2 health. "I have to make sure I'm not sending you off to die in a ditch!"  "I'll have plenty of underwear and paper in that ditch." And then the things already in my inventory? Orion's Pebble: A shiny pebble given to you by an elderly customer one day. Maybe he thought it was a coin? UNDERWEAR, PAPER, COOKIE JAR, AND A ROCK. I'M SURE TO WIN MYSELF A PLACE IN THE ELITE CHEF-SOLDIER BRIGADE!

The game elements are pretty good, though. The match puzzle element for cooking is spot-on (insert Pacha meme here), and the combat to acquire ingredients from monsters is adequately challenging -- especially when the little bird monsters want to fly off with your hard-won monster bits and your bag is too full to carry what you need. I did rather like the old man with all the cats named after cheeses, too. PECORINO! BRIE! FONTINA! SWISS!

Innkeeper: Everything alright with our accomodations, sir?
Mina: I'm a girl.
Innkeeper: Oh ho ho! Oh my word! You'll have to excuse me. I've misplaced my glasses.
Mina: But I don't sound like a man, do I?
Innkeeper: Forgive me! I'm hard of hearing too, oh ho. I'm sure you're a fine young Orc lad.

Mina: Is that your falcon? She's beautiful.
Shiv: She knows.

At this point, I forgot that I wasn't wearing my 10th Anniversary Extra Life t-shirt, so I fixed that. I may or may not have struck an epic pose for nobody but my cat.

11:00 AM
Kentucky Route Zero

Expectations: A super popular adventure game with a lot of good story. So I've been told...
Reality: [Insert Unpopular Opinion Puffin meme here.] I'm afraid I was highly underwhelmed overall with this game, but there were some elements that tickled my inner geek's fancy. This mostly came in the form of really intellectual references you either knew or would miss entirely. The gameplay itself didn't really strike me as entertaining, and the the dialogue menus left me wholly dissatisfied.

The best reference was to Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "One Hundred Years of Solitude." You are told to find a character named Marquez to get through the Zero. When you look up the address for them, it is 100 Macondo Lane. Macondo is a fictional place in Marquez's book. If you're familiar with my homestead in Second Life, I have a tower in one corner of the sim that is actually named Macondo Keep. Aside from that, the only other reference I'll mention was an excellent use of Beethoven on a record player (Symphony 3, movement 2, I believe).

I won't say anything else, because there is a good deal of character story that pushes the story forward. I haven't yet made up my mind if I'm going to go back and finish the game.

12:00 PM
Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon (Nintendo 3DS)

Expectations: I played 10 minutes of this and then got distracted by Pokemon Alpha Sapphire instead. I did read that it is a sequel to a GameCube game (Luigi's Mansion), and there's a tentatively-titled Luigi's Mansion 3 that's going to come out next year. I dunno -- it's Luigi, and he's dealing with ghosts. I always liked him better than Mario. It's gotta be good if they're planning another sequel, right?
Reality: The ghosts and the scientist in Dark Moon remind me of the minions in Despicable Me. It's an entertaining little game where you have to poke and prod at everything to find things to do other things and restore the fragments of the Dark Moon to make the ghosts be nice again. And of course you have to do this as the fearful Luigi who didn't really want this task in the first place. I almost got stuck early on because I hadn't tilted my 3DS enough to uncover something.

I took a stretch, walk and heated up pizza rolls for lunch. The best part of the pizza rolls being that there are codes on the packages to redeem for goodies in Assassin's Creed: Odyssey (which I need to get back to playing soon!). Extra awesome was opening a new package of pizza rolls, heating up a whole plate of them in a noisy microwave, cleaning the tops off of two soda cans with a noisy faucet, and NOT waking up either the snoring husband in the recliner or the hyper puppy at his feet. I'm either a ninja or a hobbit -- you decide.

1:00 PM
The Wolf Among Us

Expectations: I chose this game because it is by Telltale Games, and as most gamers know by now... they are closing their doors after they finish the work on their plates. I felt I should play one of their games in the marathon as a tribute to their great work. Plus, this one deals with fairy tale characters and has a good story... supposedly!
Reality: Well, I may have forgotten the Mature rating of this game. I remembered very quickly, and that made it a challenge to take screenshots -- plus, I never knew when I'd have to make a quick reaction! (I might have died once and had to restart from a save point because I was too focused on my pizza rolls.)

Make no mistake, though -- this is a fantastic game. It's dark, it's gritty, but the story is very intriguing and I absolutely HAVE to get back to it to finish it and find out Who Did It. It's a little nerve-wracking to know that my choices affect the mindsets and responses of the other characters. And what is up with the wine-drinking, flying GREEN monkey?

3:00 PM

Expectations: Fight the gods to save mankind in Greek mythology. Unique art style. Yeah, that's enough for me!
Reality: I plugged in my PS4 controller, having the notion I would need one since it's primarily about fighting your way through everything. However, even WITH a controller... the controls in the game were awful. A lot of the dialogue and events made no sense either. Blacksmith tells me to grab a coin box behind him, in his smithy, so that my character can afford to pay him for new gear? HERE, LET ME ROB YOU TO PAY YOU FOR YOUR OWN HARD WORK.

I finished the first portion of the game, but am not sure I'll go back to play more. I'm not sure how I feel about being on the same side as Hera, the goddess depicted as ever-vindictive. The controls were also just that bad... I kept dropping items instead of switching, and the directions for how to craft were very vague. I had to stop and Google just to figure it out.

I continued to listen to Lyrak on the voice channel as she played Skyrim, which made my struggle a little less tedious. "Everyone will get smashed when it is time." ...and other things said at the beginning of parties for $600, Alex. (If I recall, she was talking about an enemy getting up in her face before she was ready to smite him.)

4:00 PM
The Deer God

Expectations: Gorgeous pixel art. Be a deer. Survive to atone for being a jerkface. Did I mention the gorgeous pixel art?
Reality: So, the beginning of the game reminded me that it wasn't REALLY my character's fault that a baby deer died -- it was those wolves attacking him while he was aiming at the adult deer. Regardless, it was definitely fun to play. The only real struggle was getting through some of the long stretches where there was no food available. So, if you try this game, EAT EVERYTHING. Just do it. Be a pig. You won't regret it. 

My other bit of advice? DON'T STOP MOVING. Keep running and leaping and moving forward. This is not a slow-paced exploration game if you want to survive. Survival hinges on reaching other deer and creating baby deer as save points. The bigger you get (i.e. the more days you live), the easier it is to clear obstacles and avoid injury. Also... inside locations will likely throw giant bosses at you. I accidentally found this giant toad that was reminiscent of ShogunGekomon from Digimon, minus the horns.

Sometime around this point, my husband was awesome and went to go pick up some chicken tenders and potato wedges for dinner at a local place. (We've had them both Friday nights since. Yeah, they're THAT good.)

5:00 PM

Expectations: Third game by Supergiant Games. I have traditionally had the first play of their games during my Extra Life marathons, so this one will, too. Something about rites to pass and redemption and freedom or something. (Yay, more Darren Korb music!)
Reality: The art is beautiful. The music is folksy and nice, but not AS nice as Transistor or Bastion (sorry Darren). The gameplay itself is very tricky, particularly in swapping between the characters during the Rites. However, it's just not as compelling as Transistor or Bastion were for me. I am disappointed that I am disappointed! I may go back to finish this game at some point, but it isn't anywhere near the top of the list like I thought it would be.

7:00 PM
Shadow of the Colossus (PS4)

Expectations: I watched my husband play a bit of this while we were supposed to be focused on our D&D game via Google. You have a horse. You find these giant temple-building-monster-things. You climb them as they're moving. You find a weak spot. You murderize them. That's all I've got. I let my husband choose this for my queue.
Reality: You're super upset about some girl dying, and you're willing to go somewhere forbidden to get the power to bring her back to life, and you've got this special sword. A disembodied voice (a god?) agrees to do it, but sends you to go kill the giant temple-building-monster-things. You climb them as they're moving. You find a weak spot. You try to murderize them. You fall off a lot. And steering the horse is harder than it has any right to be. I won't be going back to this game. It should not be the struggle it is. Which is a shame, because the graphics are super pretty.

8:00 PM
Moon Hunters

Expectations: Steam says: "A co-op personality test about exploring an ancient, occult world in 5 days. How will you be remembered?" ...so, like... this can go a lot of different ways, and I'm expecting to have multiple, different playthroughs. More pretty pixel graphics.
Reality: I am betting this would be more fun with others to play with because some of the mobs are just... too many for one character to handle, and they do a LOT of damage. But I was right about doing the multiple, different playthroughs. It's the same 5 days every time, and it's up to you to guide a specific historical hero of this world through those days. Each time you play, you unlock more options for future playthroughs, and you learn a little bit more about what's going on. 

The pixel graphics were good in the game, but I liked the hand-drawn art sections a lot more. More of that would've been fine by me. The music was also very well-done, but not memorable. There's a good chance I'll go back into the game to play more of the heroes and uncover more of the story and options.

Right here is where I hit the $900 Milestone and sealed my fate -- I'll be watching all of the Twilight movies.

9:00 PM
The Witcher Adventure Game

Expectations: Digital version of the board game... based on the video games... based on the writing. Geralt and monsters and stuff. Should be fun, yeah? This one was a selection from my GOG.com library.
Reality: This was SO BAD. If you don't own this game and you were considering it, DON'T. I mean, by all means feel free to buy the actual board game and invite friends over to play it. But if you enjoy video games, this is not for you.

It is very similar to complex, cooperative board games like Arkham Horror. Downside... they clearly didn't rewrite any of the text when adapting it to the PC version, so a lot of it reads weird or isn't understandable. They don't give you any help learning to play the game, either. I set it up with 3 bot-controlled players, and was glad that it didn't last too long. 

I told my friends in the Discord marathon chat not to judge me for bailing early on the game. I got the expected response from them, but made up for the gap of time with RIFT. Good ol' RIFT.

snarkqueen: Tell you guys what... I give this a half hour. I'll squeeze in an hour of RIFT or something to make up for it. DON'T JUDGE ME. I FEEL THE JUDGEMENT IN YOUR SILENCE. ;___;

I worked on some guild quests for a while, then jumped into the Intrepid Instant Adventures (Hammerknell and Mind of Madness). Naturally, I got disconnected from the server RIGHT as the fight with Akylios was starting.

11:00 PM
Western Press

Expectations: Typing duel game. Set in the old west. Yes, please. I'mma beat those AIs!
Reality: The opening narration for this game was the absolute best. The capstone of which was, "The duel abides."

When I went into the settings, it said "Ah, a technical user." And when I clicked specifics, it said "What, default not good enough for ya?" I set it up so I would have actual words instead of random letters or directions. I made it all the way through pretty easily until the last duel, which was Wyatt Hurt. He is SO FAST. It took several tries, but eventually I won with the word 'strawberry.'

Short game, but lots of fun.

12:00 AM
Scanner Sombre

Expectations: Exploration game with unique visuals and good reviews.
Reality: This one was very different. I don't really know how else to describe it. There were a few places where I wasn't sure where I had to go, which resulted in awkward backtracking. You use the scanner to 'map' the topography around you in the caves and find your way through. I don't know why you're set up in a tent at a dead end. I don't know why you can't bring the actual light from there with you. I don't know why you don't bother to take supplies when you leave it. I don't know what happens if you fall into any of the big holes.

What I do know, is that the graphics are murder on your eyes. I had to lay down and close my eyes for a half hour after playing this one. I had to, or I wouldn't have been able to play any other games! This is when I begin to sip at a berry-flavored Five Hour Energy.

2:00 AM
Always Sometimes Monsters

Expectations: This is an encore. I have played this in a previous marathon and it got me through the tough early morning hours. It can be a completely different experience with each playthrough, so I felt I should bring it back again.
Reality: It was weird playing a different character this time, and in my head I was still the last character. I might have to go back to that save file. I knew a little of what to expect this time, but it's still a very unique experience. I didn't get any closer to finding out the meaning of the opening scene, but I think I saved a friend from drug addiction this time. I think. I still had to sleep on a mattress in an alley because my landlord evicted me, though.

This game does a great job of illustrating the highs and lows of life and the realistic choices people have to make to get by. Still a strong recommendation from me, and I hope they don't perpetually delay the sequel, Sometimes Always Monsters.

3:00 AM
Seasons After Fall

Expectations: There's a fox, and puzzles and stuff and you control the seasons and there's pretty artwork. FOX!
Reality: Very cute game with a very pretty art style. The directing/narrating voice is irritating. The controls could be better -- but it may also be easier with a controller. I got stuck a few times, not sure what I needed to do -- and it ended up being the controls.

4:00 AM
Town of Salem

Expectations: Murder mystery meets colonial America. Finger pointing!
Reality: I enjoyed this more than I expected to. Since the marathon, I have played many more times and learned a lot more about how to play it effectively. It's always different because of how random people are thrown together (unless you build your own group with friends). The game seems to love placing me in the Mafia or making me the Sheriff. I've had a few other roles, but not enough to be worth mentioning. I couldn't really take many screenshots of this one because of the vulgarity of some names, as well as the language they used in the player chat. If you can ignore people's inherent perversion on the internet, and enjoy cooperative who-dunnit games, then I recommend this one to you. (I have even spent a few dollars so that my character appears as Santa Claus, has a reindeer pet, and the whole town looks like a Christmas village. Totally worth it when I get assigned the Godfather role. lol)

5:00 AM
The Forest of Doom

Expectations: Tabletop RPG of the 80's turned into digital choose-your-own-adventure with dice and stats. Yes!
Reality: This is an 80's tabletop game converted into a sort of visual novel with dice and stats. In the time I had, I had several playthroughs. I honestly don't know how anyone actually completes the quest... it's so unbelievably difficult! I made it OUT of the Forest exactly one time, but hadn't accomplished the objective of finding the two halves of the magical weapon AND delivering it to the dwarves. I struggled so much: through wolves, a swarm of killer bees, poison dart-wielding pygmies, hobgoblins, an apeman, a swindling crow, a thief, a werewolf, a wyvern... You get the idea. D&D players will probably enjoy this one.

6:00 AM
The Lord of the Rings Online

Expectations:  Being the game that got me started in Extra Life, I have traditionally played it in my final few hours of the marathon each year.
Reality: Nobody was online from the Away Shall Fade kinship when I logged on, so I was tempted to just give it 20 minutes then call it early and lay down for an hour before I would have to go to church. But then some people logged on and kept me company as I did some epic quests on my level 40 guardian, Yfandiel. 

I ended the marathon with $925, but by that Sunday afternoon I was sitting at $1,001. That means ALL of my milestones were unlocked and I have a great deal of incentives to deliver on in the coming months! And I'll do it all again next year, too.

I've learned over the years of doing this that you have to pace yourself -- and that includes breaks, food and drink. Step away for too long, and you lose momentum. Eat too much, and you'll get sleepy. Drink too much, and you'll have to visit the bathroom too often and it will interrupt your game flow. To this end, I made sure I started with that Vanilla Doubleshot after not having had any caffeine the previous day. I sipped at mini Cherry Cokes throughout the day, along with water. I snacked on Gushers and Goldfish crackers. My meals were pizza rolls, nibbled as I gamed and not gobbled all at once to sit heavily on my stomach. Every 3 hours I would stand up and do stretches. I made sure not to touch energy-giving options until after midnight, where I sipped on a Five Hour Energy for 3 hours instead of gulping the whole thing, giving myself a slow release effect of B vitamins. So I could function, I had my second Vanilla Doubleshot on the way to church around 10:30 am. This way, I didn't cause myself any sugar or caffeine crashes. I laid down that afternoon to rest, but maybe only slept a half hour in total. I didn't actually go to sleep until 9:45 pm. I had prudently taken Monday off from work, and I spent most of it in bed watching anime.

Look forward to the announcement for the Spicy Challenge poll result, as well as a loose agenda for when you can expect the other milestones. ALL donors should expect to receive 2 pieces of digital artwork for Christmas. They'll arrive via an official Extra Life e-mail so I can get those anonymous donors, too. 

If you're part of Away Shall Fade, I have good news! You guys successfully donated 25% of my goal, so I'll be giving away some LOTRO points. I'm trying to work out the logistics of that, but hope to have it done before Christmas. Thank you for all the support you've given me this year!