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2022.12.31

Books From 2022

Every year I try to compile a list of games, books, and movies I experienced. For the complete list, check the Ratings. Here we go (sorted by rating)!

I continue reading (mostly listening to audiobook versions, in fact) almost every day for the past few years. It’s in my daily routine when I walk the dogs. It’s a very different proposition from laying down and dedicating some time to read them. I have an urge for a secondary task when I am performing a no-brainer routine, such as… walking the dogs. Otherwise, I feel like wasting my time by walking and not thinking.

This is the list of this year’s books that I ingested. These lists are -definitively- not comprehensive ones. Since I always forget to update my GoodReads personal records or write about them on this blog, they are just the ones I remember. I will edit this post in case I remember other entries.

This year I’ve already compiled a mid-term list back in July, so it’s just the books from the second semester.

Fiction

  • The Silver ShipsThe Silver Ships (Silver Ships #1) (S.H. Jucha)(9★★★★★★★★★): Great recommendation from Steve Gibson in the Security Now podcast. The author tells science fiction stories with rich details about the character and ordinary tasks. The protagonist is clever, to say the least.
  • LibreLibre (Silver Ships #2) (S.H. Jucha)(7★★★★★★★): The second book captures a character trait I do not like: constant winner. Alex Racine faces rare and extremely low-odd events and surpasses them daily. At some point, I started to care less and less about him because I knew very little was at stake. The higher note is the rising of artificial intelligence characters.
  • MéridienMéridien (Silver Ships #3) (S.H. Jucha)(7★★★★★★★): 3rd book. SADEs (the artificial intelligence characters) shine. The main character, again, is too much powerful/lucky. The timeline jumped several years in the future, giving a fresh look for each character.

Non Fiction

  • MindsetMindset: The New Psychology of Success (Carol S. Dweck)(5★★★★★): One could summarize Mindset into a single slide. People either have a fixed mindset (believe people do not change, things are what they are) or a growth mindset (everything is changing and evolving, including ourselves). It’s interesting, but the book is self-indulging (a common trait for self-help books). Dweck repeats her mantra over and over, exploring her theory in a variety of scenarios. Most of them are ad hoc: she justifies the known past as the mindset of the people involved was THE reason why things happened as they did.

Some books for the next year

  • Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson
  • How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky, Daniel Ziblatt
  • The Law by Frederic Bastiat
  • Essays on Political Economy by Frederic Bastiat
  • Quiet by Susan Cain
  • Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kadneman
  • Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
  • Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
  • Silver Ships 5-10 by SH Jucha
  • Mistborn 3-4 by Brandon Sanderson

For more books, you can check my online read list on GoodReads.

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2022.12.31

Game List 2022

Every year I try to compile a list of games, books, and movies I experienced. For the complete list, check the Ratings. Here we go (sorted alphabetically)!

This year my game library is over 1000 games. 1/3 I’ve never touched it. 1/3 I’ve barely played. So I can stop buying games for a while and still have a lot of fun.

Finished

  • 3 out of 10 Season 2(7★★★★★★★): the same as the first season. Funny and awkward.
  • A Plague Tale Innocence(8★★★★★★★★): it’s a stealth game with beautiful production. Finally, played the whole thing. The supernatural mixes with religion, knights, and kings.
  • A Total War Saga: TROY(8★★★★★★★★): one of the Epic Store exclusives (for a time), it impressed me. I finished my first campaign, playing the Amazons. It takes so much that I prefer to play another thing. But it was good. The siege mechanism drags the game progress (it is accurate historically, but it does not translate well into gameplay).
  • Amnesia: Rebirth(5★★★★★): I did not like either the game old mechanics or the story.
  • Before Your Eyes(8★★★★★★★★): a sad and emotional story of a boy. The unique mechanism of blinking in front of the camera instead of using the mouse is gimmicky but works fine in the setting. It almost made me cry.
  • Blair Witch(7★★★★★★★): did not care much about the lore, but it’s a nice horror game. The dog is an enjoyable mechanic, and we get quite attached to him.
  • Borderlands 3(5★★★★★): Not fun. I would like to tell you that. The humor is repetitive from previous entries, and the gameplay is also derivative.
  • Crying Suns(7★★★★★★★): very similar to FTL, with a delightful story and context.
  • Elex(6★★★★★★): praised by Mortismal Gaming as being a clunky but very enjoyable RPG, and I agree. The story is unbelievable, and the character progression is steep, to say the least. Unlike Morten’s review, I do not recommend it, despite the recent Elex 2 release.
  • GTA V(8★★★★★★★★): years after the release, I started to play when Epic Game Store gave it for free. I’ve never bothered to play the multiplayer MMO, just the main story. It’s a technical marvel to use 3 protagonists in different places in the city. It’s far better than previous titles and full of hilarious moments (both scripted and spontaneous).
  • If On A Winter's Night, Four Travelers(6★★★★★★): a small 2-hour long game with SO much story and ambiance.
  • Man Eater(8★★★★★★★★): a mockumentary about sharks. The player controls the sharks, and the narrator always follows you. It was a surprise for me.
  • Monster Train(6★★★★★★): very much like a board/card game made digital (no coincidence that the board game community loves it). Rogue-like go until you die makes every match a life-or-death dire. I finished one time at least! But the core loop asks for more.
  • Nex Machina(7★★★★★★★): shoot-them-all frantic gameplay. It is difficult. I can imagine fans speedrunning and replaying for all the achievements.
  • Northgard(6★★★★★★): Steam has offered for free for a single weekend. I manage to play and play to the very end. I was expecting an open sim, but it’s more like a WarCraft in rails. Each scenario is a very narrow puzzle.
  • QUBE 2(7★★★★★★★): puzzle very similar to the Portal series. The story is mysterious with a nice twist.
  • Shadow of War(6★★★★★★): My saved game was corrupted by 2019, but due to the imminent debut of the Rings of Power TV show, I managed to play it all over again. This time, to the end. Very average. Too many systems that are not very relevant in the end.
  • Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments(8★★★★★★★★): the best game in the series. 6 cases with somewhat similar mechanics and styles.
  • Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order(8★★★★★★★★): got in Amazon’s Gaming free January kit and I got very curious. It impressed me quite a lot. I even tried to get all possible achievements. In the end, you feel a very powerful Jedi. The story is cliché.
  • Star Wars Squadrons(7★★★★★★★): flying a ship from the Star Wars universe was always a fun proposition.
  • The Quiet Sleep(8★★★★★★★★): in this weird indie game, you play a guy’s mind during 3 life simulation scenarios. Decisions will generate stress, anxiety, and happiness, and the player has to chain them into the following process or decision.
  • Untitled Goose Game(7★★★★★★★): playing in two, with my wife. It’s a little puzzle game. Not all puzzles are obvious, but it was fun to explore the possibilities of being an annoying goose. It reminded us of our little dogs and the times they are nasty little creatures causing havoc around.

About to finish:

  • Beyond: Two Souls(8★★★★★★★★): start to play this story-driven with my wife. I bet it will be finished by the next couple of weeks. Heavy Rain probably coming next.

Not finished yet (for one reason or another)

Most of them I barely started. Installed to check the general flow or if it was working at all. Some It’s WIP. Few are collecting dust.

  • Assassin’s Creed 3(5★★★★★): it’s a big cut scene with some on-rails gameplay. Hated so far. :( Uninstalled and will hardly get into it again.
  • Astrologaster(8★★★★★★★★): indie small game. Crazy humor. I liked it very much so far.
  • Black Mesa(8★★★★★★★★): the official/unofficial Half-Life 1 remake. The original one I did not play at the time. This remake is superb! After finally playing Half-Life 2(8★★★★★★★★) until the end of last year, I was curious to check what all the fuss was about HF1.
  • Cloudpunk(7★★★★★★★): weird visuals and relaxing gameplay. You are a taxi driver in a special city.
  • Deus Ex: Mankind Divided(7★★★★★★★): liked the first title, Deus Ex: Human Revolution(8★★★★★★★★), but this one is a far inferior game. The story is not nice and the gameplay is not fun so far.
  • Doki Doki Literature Club: not my style, but I heard so many good things about it that I’m intrigued. Played for just a handful of minutes.
  • Ghostrunner(7★★★★★★★): 3D puzzle game action game. Think about 3D Super Meat Boy in first-person. The control scheme is odd, but the visuals are amazing.
  • GRIS: beautiful first level.
  • Heaven’s Vault(7★★★★★★★): highly anticipated game, played a bit and liked the story so far. As far I can tell, there is space for multiple run-throughs to explore all possible branches (not sure if I would do it tough).
  • Observation(7★★★★★★★): excellent storytelling, despite the clunky controls. While trying to install another game, I remove it to free up some space. After a couple of months, It’s going to be difficult to redo the narrative.
  • Supraland(8★★★★★★★★): from nowhere, this game is, to my surprise, harder and much longer than I anticipated. Still, I’m loving the sarcastic tone and the bucketload of jokes.
  • The Stillness of the Wind: installed.
  • Thronebreaker(8★★★★★★★★): a great RPG but using the core mechanics of the Gwent card game! Unique premise and a VERY fun game.
  • Unravel Two(8★★★★★★★★): still to finish with my wife. She struggles to use the joystick, but this game is quite forgiving, due to the slow pace. The light story allows infrequent plays.
  • While True Learn(8★★★★★★★★): logic programming puzzles. Amazingly fun and challenging for a programmer. The special bonuses for optimized solutions request multiple plays for each scenario.
  • Wilmot s Warehouse: it works. It’s all that I can tell so far.
  • XII: installed, played 2 levels. A first-person shooter with a unique visual comics-like style but old controls.

Not finished yet (still from previous years)

Yet, there are some games that I did not quit definitively, but they are still to be played (therefore, not yet fully rated). A few are installed even still.

  • Baba Is You(7★★★★★★★): played some levels. To the second or third “world”, if I remember. SUPER clever.
  • Shadow Tactics(8★★★★★★★★): I liked the thinking of this game. It’s definitively one that I will try to complete sooner than later.
  • Superhot Mind Control Delete(7★★★★★★★): played several levels already, yet to finish.
  • Surviving Mars(7★★★★★★★): played a couple of times but never could complete a single level. It’s dry.
  • The Pillars of the Earth: loved the book. I barely started the game, so maybe it should not be here.
  • War of Mine(8★★★★★★★★): I’m far in my third play-through, but I’m still to survive and see the game credits.

Continuous playing

I play them eventually. Most of them, are strategy games.

  • Cities Skylines(8★★★★★★★★): my friend mentioned that he has lost hours and hours designing his hometown. I reinstalled it and started to lose hours and hours too! :P
  • Democracy 4(8★★★★★★★★): it was special to play it while running for congress! Great game and a formidable educational tool. I have some contact with the developer, Cliff Harris.
  • Endless Legend: I install and play from time to time. The region/country approach to territory instead of individual hexagons is nice.
  • Hidden Folks(7★★★★★★★): Where is Wally/Waldo?-like is a success with small kids and non-gamers alike.
  • Overcooked 2(8★★★★★★★★): my family loved it, and I’m trying to play the campaign with my wife.
  • RimWorld(8★★★★★★★★): MUCH more complex than Prison Architect, offered a great variety of procedural content. I did not finish even a single play-through, but it’s really special. There is a dedicated fan base.
  • Rome Total War(8★★★★★★★★): I played a lot last year. But it’s quite a long game. Once I finish it once, I might close it once and for all. The Troy is heavier but ultimately better in every aspect.
  • Scythe(9★★★★★★★★★): the award-winning board game that I still have to give a beginning-to-end match.
  • Skyrim(9★★★★★★★★★): Because I’ve never finished the game, I was always tempted to replay it. After watching some hilarious videos of The Spiffing Brit channel exploiting its mechanics, I was convinced to restart. I installed a dozen mods to enhance visuals and UI. It’s much better.
  • Stelaris(7★★★★★★★): slow-paced super broad space strategy. The sense of exploration is still amazing.
  • Terraforming Mars(6★★★★★★): an award-winning board game that I played a couple of matches solo. Did not click on me, but I will still give it another try, maybe multiplayer.
  • Ticket to Ride(9★★★★★★★★★): one game that I play online with family and friends. My wife and I love it. Always a success.

Next games on my radar

Finally, here is a list of games that I already have in my collection that I plan to play in the next months.

  • Assassin’s Creed Syndicate: hope to be better than the 3.
  • Battlefield 5: I played B1 last year and loved it. Now it’s time to play the next in the line.
  • Ghost of a Tale: I’ve followed the development process for quite some time because it was made using Unity3D. I never played it, and it is now in my collection. It looks adorable.
  • Heavy Rain: I will play this critically acclaimed story-driven game from Quantic Dream with my wife.
  • Hitman: I’ve never finished Contracts, but just because I was obsessed with being perfect. I hope to play more relaxed this one.
  • Shadow of Tomb Raider: Like Battlefield 5 above, it’s the next Lara adventure to experience.
  • We Are There Together: I bought to play with my wife using the family feature on Steam (she shares all my games). However, it is not included in the Play Together, so I am required to buy it twice. :/ Maybe trying to convince another soul to play with me.
  • XCOM2: XCOM 2 received praises in the past few years. It’s time to take a look at it.
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2022.12.31

Movie List 2022

Every year I try to compile a list of games, books, and movies I experienced. For the complete list, check the Ratings. Here we go (sorted by rating)!

Slow year, I assume.

  1. CODA(10★★★★★★★★★★): a heart-melting story about a girl that wants to be a singer. Her parents, however, are all deaf and need her to manage work and fit in. It was my favorite movie for the 2022 Oscars.
  2. Being Ricardos(8★★★★★★★★): very interesting movie about the production of the “I Love Lucy” TV show that I did not know. Both Nicole and Javier are superb, deserving acting award nominations.
  3. Dune (Frank Herbert)(8★★★★★★★★): I read Dune to prepare myself as I did with Foundation. But unlike Asimov’s weird adaptation, this Frank Herbert novel movie is phenomenal. It’s just part 1, which leaves several subplots opened, still: gorgeous, fun, and well-written and acted.
  4. Marighella(7★★★★★★★): the first black leader against the military dictatorship in Brazilian history.
  5. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings(7★★★★★★★): lighthearted MCU movie. Funny characters and a fun story. One of the best comic MCU movies. Yet, it’s not my cup of tea.
  6. King Richard(7★★★★★★★): the story of Serena and Venus Williams’ father and their beginnings in the tennis world. Nice performance of Will Smith (not my pick for the best actor performance, like at the Oscar), but the character is so annoying that I got annoyed.
  7. The Menu(7★★★★★★★): my first movie at the theater. Nice thriller.
  8. The Matrix Resurrections(4★★★★): meta meta meta. And boring. Despite the very first movie, the Matrix franchise is a big disappointment.

Documentaries

No one this year :(

Animations

  1. Forky Asks A Question(10★★★★★★★★★★): holy molly… I laughed out loud at this Pixar mini-series.

TV Shows

  1. Ted Lasso (S2)(9★★★★★★★★★): showrunners tried to innovate the formula by telling whole episodes from the perspective of secondary characters. Not all that great. Still, among our favorites.
  2. Bad Sisters (S1)(9★★★★★★★★★): A Rotten Tomatoes recommendation, it was a blast. The Prick is a prick. Recommend.
  3. This is Us (S1)(8★★★★★★★★): great premise and lovable characters. Themes of adoption, family bonds, and personal differences. I cried in several episodes. Great start.
  4. Sandman S1(8★★★★★★★★): I loved the comics. I read exactly the amount of the source material that was used in this season, so I knew the references. Very well produced. The side stories are odd at first but then we get the overall arch, just like the comics.
  5. Succession (S3)(7★★★★★★★): the worst season so far. It tries to give at least one full episode for each main character, but many episodes are fillers. Also, the number of cataclysmic events that are just ignored in the next episode is getting old. Unlike “Game of Thrones”, no one will die. One day the audience will not care because nothing is really at the stake. Kendall is too annoying for my taste.
  6. The Devil's Hour (S1)(6★★★★★★): Thriller about a woman and her boy having some kind of paranormal abilities. Murders and police investigations are in the mix. A Rotten Tomatoes highly rated that did not click for me.
  7. The Foundation S1(4★★★★): I loved the book, but this adaptation drifted from the source material to the point is unrecognizable. I could not pass the 4th episode.
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2022.12.01

Flax Engine

In a year full of personal experimentation in other careers (like running for congress, for example :), I still programmed a lot. I invested a lot of time studying Docker and containers, Kubernetes, Home Assistant, and hosting web systems myself (like Nextcloud).

But game design is a passion.

I constantly get annoyed with Unity3D and the latest events on the business side, which had me worry even more. I tried to use Godot and failed. C# is far better in terms of easy-to-use and safety compared to C++ and even more to custom scripting languages. It’s more organized and well-documented. And I have years of accumulated experience. And Godot-C# integration is buggy, unstable, and full of gotchas. The way they re-implemented C# in the upcoming Godot 4 created so many artifacts to properly work that I got even more frustrated. I could not use Lists<>!

After watching a curious review on the GameFromScratch channel, I tried a new kid in town: Flax Engine. It’s a C++/C# engine heavily inspired by Unity. The from-to process is straightforward. After just a few of weeks playing with it, now I decided to invest in it. I am planning to port my closest-to-finish game I have to it by the end of the year. It’s 1 step back, 2 steps forward.

Cons

👎 Like Godot, there is no way, currently, to drag-and-drop assets and actors with a specific class. I always have to ask for a generic Actor in the editor and check if has the given class in the code. Annoying and error-prone.

👎 Still lacking several common features, compared to Unity and Unreal. It’s evolving and, most importantly, their competitors pave the way for inspired clones like Flax.

👎 Minuscule community compared to other game engines, even the indie ones. Recent GitHub reports the biggest Open Source projects do not place Flax into the top 10.

Neutral

😐 Not FLOSS. It’s open source but it’s not free. The license requires paying royalties. It’s very close to what Unreal asks but more generous. I would love to see it converting to a full FLOSS model in the future.

👎 Old C#/.Net version. A branch with the newest .NET 7 was created and developed. The current version uses .Net Framework 4.8 and it is a pain to install on Linux.

👎 Still lacking Docker image for CI/CD (well, Unity and Unreal also do not have official ones). I may implement a repository myself, inspired by GameCI ;)

Pros

👍 1-1 adaptation from a Unity developer. It’s not as feature-rich, but it’s very competent.

👍 Open community. A lot of issues and Merge Requests on the project’s GitHub page. I’ve been talking to devs in a Discord channel and they are receptive.

👍 Small footprint. The editor is only a couple of megabytes and the “cooked” game is also small. If possible, running it in an Alpine-like image will create a minuscule image to use CI/CD.

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2022.11.29

Wingspan

Stonemaier got famous when the owner, Jamey Stegmaier, blogged every aspect of his first Kickstarter campaign. People felt confident with his struggles, thoughts, and solutions.

After some success, Stonemaier created another hit. This time the game was not designed by Jamey but by newcomer Elizabeth Hargrave. Wingspan (which is currently at the high tier in BoardGameGeek) lets you collect birds that provide special powers, that accumulate turn after turn. I bought it as the last year Christmas gift for my wife last year, and it became one of the most played games in our collection.

Little eggs

Positives

The components and art, OMG, are all high quality and adorable. The board, the cards, the dice tower, the eggs… ohhh… don’t even mention the colorful eggs. The colors do not have any gameplay meaning, but they are adorable. People always react when seeing those little eggs.

The care in creating each bird card is astonishing. The flavor text is rich in details, and most of them have a real implication in the game itself. Bird size, breeding pattern, type of food… it’s all grounded in reality!

There are birds objectively better than others, but the external objectives and bonuses may increase the usefulness of birds in each play. Considering also the huge number of cards, at least for the sake of replayability, it’s a major plus.

The core value of this game is the engine-building mechanism. Each time you get a new bird, its powers will be used in later turns. So by the end of the match, some super powerful combos will be created. It’s very satisfying to activate a multipoint machine!

Wigspan components

Negatives

This game is a multiplayer solitaire: while you can somewhat manipulate resources and face up birds a bit, it is best to be occupied to “do your best”. My nephews were hooked all the time, but mostly commenting about the birds’ looks and imagining their next moves.

It is very difficult to keep track of other people’s boards. So it is really hard to counteract. None will take mental notes tracking other players. But for those who do this, it could represent a major strategic advantage.

The abilities are fun but require a lot of reading to understand. While the texts are not long, the font is a bit small.

The dice tower, despite being cute, is prone to damage over time. I already not using it in my sessions, to preserve it.

Wigspan components

My Rating: 9★★★★★★★★★
Bruno MASSA