Infopost | 2024.06.09

BG3 artefact forest draognborn astarion

I'm hoping there's some web 1.1 news just over the horizon, in the meantime the database and filter quality have grown steadily. One of my page recommendations was a post that had some good links, including an indieweb mapping project.

Indie map home page

At a glance, this looked similar to my implementation. It isn't, like many others it connects sites (rather than pages) based on hrefs. It also seems to be abandonware, the true scourge of the indieweb.

Indie map kumi snarfed

The graph looks kind of cool but also extremely busy.

The forest indieweb page

Another link from the Shellsharks page took me to The Forest. Functionally, The Forest is a blogstumbler like some of the others I've come across. It distinguishes itself with superior aesthetics. The 'about' text doesn't directly say whether or not the name comes from the dark forest metaphor.

Crazy antivax post human flesh goo crop fertilizer

My web 1.1 recommendations have also included a hefty dose of vaccine-related content. Part of me wants to keep these links in the database; they're historical viewpoints that represent part of the 2020/2021 conversation. Moreover, I'm academically curious about the horticultural and economic benefits of using gelatinous human remains as plant fertilizer. On the other hand, nah.
Search

Recently, a chunk of of Google's internal search API ostensibly leaked to some SEO bloggers.

SparkToro Building up one's influence as an author online may indeed lead to ranking benefits in Google. But what exactly in the ranking systems makes up "E-E-A-T" [Ed: Experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness] and how powerful those elements are is an open question. I'm a bit worried that E-E-A-T is 80% propaganda, 20% substance. There are plenty of powerful brands that rank remarkably well in Google and have very little experience, expertise, authoritativeness, or trustworthiness, as HouseFresh's recent, viral article details in depth.

Most of the bloggers' API dissections amount to "here is what the API provides (since there is no leaked algo), here is a real-world example".

House Fresh Better Homes & Gardens never mentioned conducting tests prior to the Google Product Review Update in July 2022. You can see clearly here how, on July 6th, there were no mentions of air purifiers being tested. Fast forward to July 26th (one day before the announcement of the Google update), and they're now saying they've tested 38 air purifiers. Zero to over 30 devices in just a few weeks without any prior mention of any sort of testing. This is also the first time we see some original photos.

Having occasionally poked my head into SEOland, I enjoyed the writeups.

House Fresh At position #8, we have Popular Science, a magazine from 1872 that was sold to a private equity firm, North Equity LLC, in 2020. A year later, North Equity introduced Recurrent Ventures, a new arm of their business that runs all the media brands they acquired. A few months later, PopSci switched to an all-digital format. Two years later, in 2023, PopSci stopped being a magazine altogether.

Somehow Google allowed private equity firms to Red Lobster them.





Storypost | 2024.06.04

Nickel Beer Company Julian patio

The Exploration Society did a family outing in Julian. And a few weeks before that, we made use of Gage's spare SD Wave tickets.

San Diego Wave match San Diego Wave stands popcorn
Not sunshine

Ticket to Ride Legacy negative score Ticket to Ride Legacy final score card spoilers

I pulled out a resounding victory in Ticket to Ride Legacy (right) despite having managed a negative score one round (left). I think prioritizing stocks made a big difference, as well as tactically oscillating between winner and loser.

Now we're playing Slay the Spire (the board game).

Bear Bunny Sloth Okapi having a picnic Chunkies paint sticks Reading Tintin Rackhams treasure Hot Wheels Mitsubishi 3000GT

I've restarted the deck project, so we've spent some recent weekends around the house.



Review | 2024.06.03

Remnant 2 root earth final boss Annihilation

My post backlog has piled up as I've been pulled in various other directions - a deck project, web 1.1, video games. To get my writing momentum going, I'm starting with a lightweight gamespost about vanquishing the Remnant II and BG3 final bosses.

Gameplay spoilers, no plot spoilers.
Remnant 2 / Annihilation

Remnant 2 card jester Remnant 2 labyrinth The Keeper Remnant 2 apocalyptic earth the root

Since last time, me and J finished off the Beatific Palace and worked through the loot-filled miniboss-onslaught of Root Earth. At last we arrived at Annihilation.

Remnant 2 Annihilation final boss flying

He wrecked us. Again and again. It had taken us a dozen attempts to beat the archvillain of the first Remnant, but here we couldn't even reliably get to his second phase. The internet offered some suggestions (namely the phase two audio cues) but confirmed our experience with the huge leap in difficulty.

Remnant 2 dead to rights predator archetype
The dog handler archetype includes an homage to Dead to Rights.

We went back to camp to see if there were any worthwhile consumables. I took the opportunity to research an item that had been in our inventory and found that it could be traded for a new archetype (class). And then I found that we had leveled sufficiently to be able to equip that second archetype. Needless to say, we hadn't wandered up into the rickety tower by the derelict ship to see the hermit vendor since, I guess, the intro tutorial.

Remnant 2 Annihilation final boss second phase

Returning to Annihilation, we got him in our first go. I'm not sure if the second archetype provided stat bonuses or if the dog companions just drew a lot of aggro. Frustration: overcome. Annihilation: overcome. Importance of reading: reinforced.

Campaign p/reroll

Remnant 2 Tal Ratha boss

Since Remnant was borderline-unplayable for J on the Steamdeck, a few months ago he switched to PS5 after we had put a few hours into a campaign. Switching platforms meant rolling a new character and so we kicked off a new campaign. With the second campaign now done, we switched back to the first one and the experience has been, happily, seamless. Our characters and equipment carried over just fine and the difficulty curve adjusted to our higher-level characters.

Remnant 2 seems built for replay value; while some of the campaign has been the same we've also seen new bosses, new areas, and new equipment. And then I looked briefly at a wiki that listed all of the unlockable archetypes. Wow. I'm not sure how archetype playstyle will impact replay on its own, but it definitely adds variety to subsequent runs.

A few more shots

Remnant 2 butchers quarter lynching Remnant 2 butchers quarter combat shockwave Remnant 2 faelin boss
Remnant 2 faelin boss battle Remnant 2 faelin boss battle healing pool Remnant 2 root earth bane Remnant 2 Annihilation final boss flying
Baldur's Gate 3 / Netherbrain

Bladurs Gate 3 final brain battle mizora displacer beast
I accidentally nuked my gallery except for this screencap.

The BG3 endgame sequence is pretty good; not too long, not too short, and it provides time to use those awesome spells and items that you've saved up. The final boss is challenging but doable in one or two attempts (I assume this is fairly universal given the level cap).

A brief rewind to Mass Effect 3: ME3 had a "build your allies" mechanic that allowed decisions and quest outcomes from throughout the series impact the final stand against the Reapers. It wasn't great. Allies were basically represented as a point score that served as a threshold for finishing the game and a gate for the 'better' endings. And despite promising to not require online play, the original release of the game required ally points from online play to unlock the 'best' ending.

BG3 has a similar alliancebuilding mechanic but executes the business end of it lot better: allies return as summonable NPCs for the final battles. Alas, only the main character can summon them, so precious actions are required to deploy the Mintharas and Dame Aylins. But it's considerably more tactical and personal than BiowarEA's galaxy strength point system.

Denouement

I was unimpressed by the post-climax cinematics. First, the narrator basically repeats "You saved Baldur's Gate, you heroic hero!" an awkward number of times with slightly different phrasings. (My Larian-apologist headcannon is that some WotC PM skipped to the end of the script and demanded that the player be fluffed as much as possible.) If being congratulated by a video game isn't sufficiently destructive to the fourth wall, well, some of these scenes show how atrocious the game's graphics look when not showing the default tactical view or the conversation view.

Reunion

BG3 emphasizes character development and relationship building so I was happy to see that the game didn't end with a montage of cheering and dismembered tentacles. There is a final reunion back at the original Act I overworld campsite where the player can catch up with their surviving squadmates. It amounts to a handful of dialogues that differ based on the outcome of each squadmate's personal quest - not great, not terrible.

New Game=

Bladurs Gate 3 blue dragonborn paladin

Larian doesn't do New Game+. It's somewhat disappointing, you'd think they could at least let you pass cosmetics to the next playthrough since the low-tier gear is so ugly. Regardless, like with the Divinity games I found myself wanting to do another run 'the right way'; a playthrough where I have familiarity with the game mechanics and what builds/items/abilities are good or largely useless.

"What's good/useless?", you might ask, "Isn't BG3 perfectly balanced?" Imho, lol no. While it might be possible to minmax anything to be good, elite enemy resistance and saving throws make a lot of magic and abilities pretty worthless.

Bladurs Gate 3 emerald grove lute Alfira dragonborn

Oh yeah, and there are a ton of things I didn't do in my first playthrough for reasons ranging from "it was a binary choice" to "I ran into a well-documented bug" to "old-fashioned player negligence". Some examples:
Bladurs Gate 3 blue dragonborn paladin soup grove

BG3 offers quite a few different character classes and subclasses, so even squadmates can be built differently on a new playthrough. My first character was a ranger that would summon ADS and then do some sniping. This worked especially well with large fields of brambles in front of her enemies but the summons were kind of mediocre (to their credit they drew a lot of aggro in the final battle).

For this playthrough it seemed reasonable to switch it up and go with close quarters proficiency. Lae'zel was a total badass in Act III; super tanky, three attacks, could shove people over them mountains. My other objective was to aim for a charisma build in order to pass all of the persuasion/intimidation checks.

Bladurs Gate 3 Raphael House of Hope early game feast
I'll be back.

Charisma is used by sorcerors, warlocks, and paladins, so to do a charismatic tank I needed to go pally. That's fine, pacing the use of limited spell slots is not my favorite part of the game. Paladins are half-casters, so while the charismaxxing is useful for various checks, it's still somewhat wasted on his preference to smack enemies with metal rods of various shapes. Happily, cantrips are available through feats, use charisma, and give str-builds a ranged attack option (bows all use dexterity).

After a little reading I found that strong defense can be accomplished in one of two ways:
I briefly looked into doing something weird like a dextrous tank with a shield and a dagger that might focus less on damage and more on debuffs and DOTs. Alas, as far as I'm aware, inflicting status effects like bleeding requires consumables or situational weapon use, daggers don't passively cause bleeding. It's for the best though, my ranger was dexterous so my paladin might as well be strong.

But since shields give an Armor Class bonus and often can be used to knock down attackers, they fit the build.

Bladurs Gate 3 emerald grove elevator ritual

For character race I went with a blue dragon(born) because heavy armor benefits greatly from shock resistance. Also dragons are cooler than like dwarves and half-orcs and whatever. A little wiki-reading indicated that the lack of darkvision can be remedied with Volo's eye surgery (and that heterochromia can be avoided by simply choosing Blue 3 irises on character creation.

Bladurs Gate 3 emerald grove harpy

Playthrough two commences.