NekoJonez’s August 2021 Update

It’s almost that time of year again, the start of the school year here in Belgium. This year, I start my 3rd year as an IT-admin in the school I work for. So, that also means that my summer break is over, and I restarted working again. Also, I’m quite surprised that my latest update article was from December 2020. I mean, it’s quite usual that there are sometimes big gaps between these articles when not a lot of interesting things happen to collect together in an update… But hey, that’s totally besides the point. Let’s start talking about what’s happening in my life and what’s going on for my blog. And before I start, I want to invite you to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions in the comment section down below.

Fewer articles and more gaps

When you look at the numbers of amount of published articles, you’ll notice that since March of this year… I have been skipping more and more weeks. Apart from April, I have been able to write and publish 2-3 articles each month. While I see a decrease in traffic to my blog because of that, I honestly don’t mind that much. I still reach similar numbers in the end. Now, I know that numbers shouldn’t matter since writing this blog is still a hobby. I know that fact all too well, yet… somehow, I feel proud when I see the numbers raise. But, that’s something we all like, seeing numbers raise. It’s a physiological thing.

So, why are there so many gaps in the publishing of articles? Well, it’s because I have written about so many games that I’m as good as through my backlog. I still have several games on my backlog to write about, but most of them should be replayed for at least a little while, since it has been such a long time since I played them for the first time. Before I write an article about a game, I want to have at least played 5-ish hours of that game, unless it’s a game quicky or a small indie game (that’s shorter than 5 hours). And here are the reasons I’m having trouble with that.

First, due to the COVID pandemic and private matters… My day job is extremely busy. I love doing my day job, but it’s extremely draining. So, at the end of the day, I sometimes don’t have the energy left to play games, or I just want to play a game to relax and not having to take notes or prepare an article about it. So, that means I have been playing games I have reviewed before and finishing them and, yes, even replaying some of them.

Secondly, I’m trying to improve my writing style. After writing for about 10 years in a similar writing style, I want to challenge myself to write more in-depth articles with more research and more cohesion. So, I’m putting a lot more time into each article, and it shows. I’m prouder of each article that I publish, and I feel that I’m improving quite a lot.

Thirdly, due to the general business of my personal life and the work for my school… I don’t always have the energy to write. I also want to recover in the weekend or work on my huge to-do list. Furthermore, I’m writing a lot for other things I’ll talk about more later… and that also has consequences. That means I burn myself out of writing sometimes. And I find that sometimes taking a break is better for me. That way I can still publish an interesting and well written article instead of a half-baked article. I like “better quality over more quantity”. So yeah.

And finally, here in Belgium, the COVID restrictions are slowly but surely lifting. Especially for vaccinated people (like myself)! So, that means I can start doing things in my local acting group again and go to see theater performances and movies in the cinema. Man, I have missed that so hard. You know those things you do, to reward yourself after doing a good job? Well, that was theater and cinema for me. Of course, blogging/writing about games has the same effect for me, but variety is the spice of life.

So, what does that mean? Shall you see less articles on my blog? Bluntly said, yes. I might not write weekly articles for a while anymore. I decided that it’s a goal I would love to reach, but I’m not going to force myself to write 4 articles each month. Not only that, but I’m going to try to write at least 1-2 articles/month. And if that’s not possible, I’ll talk about that on my twitter.

Outside of blogging

So, what’s going on in my personal life outside of writing for this blog? Well, quite a lot, actually. I have been expanding my hobbies and skill set. The first hobby I want to talk about is something that’s related to gaming, actually. I started speedrunning Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine. You can find my runs at my Speedrun.com profile. At first, I wanted to beat the PC times, but those are not only extremely optimized already, I’m unable to do the perfect movement.

That’s why I started to focus on the GBC version. While I’m keeping an eye on the PC version, I’m mainly focused on the GBC version. Not too long ago, I have beaten my ANY% GBC full game run I did live that one time. Whenever I feel like it, I have been grinding this run out since that 1h 40 m 08s, I’m certain it can go lower. In a matter of fact, I have found several small skips and improvements that is going to save at least 10-ish minutes all together. But, I’m planning to write an article about the strategies and such involved in the full game run in the future… So, keep an eye out for that.

Besides speedrunning, I’m also creating a new website for my local acting group. Currently, it’s behind closed doors, but I’m spending quite a lot of time on that site. I’m also working on a lot of technical stuff for my acting group to improve work flow and such. It’s something different and a fun challenge for sure. I love the stuff I’m learning since I’m able to use it for the website I maintain for my school and visa versa.

Speaking about the school I work for, I have two updates about that. The first update is that I have a fixed contract. Now, here in Belgium, it works somewhat different in schools. The contract I currently have is if the school has to shut down for what ever reason, a school from the district has to give me a job. In other words, I’m quite certain that I’m going to have a job for the foreseeable future. 🙂 And not only that, it’s in my dream job as an IT admin in a big school. I couldn’t wish for more.

The second update is that the school I work for is growing in amount of students. Currently, we have around 700 students, compared to roughly 600 students at the start of the previous year. This is quite mind-blowing for an art school, and that’s the biggest reason my day job is so busy. I’m so happy that the school I work for is growing so much since that means our school is quite healthy.

So, outside of having a busy day job, writing a gaming blog (semi-)weekly, doing things for my acting group, speeding running games… I’m also active in the development of WordPress. Now, I’m not a coder, so I’m helping that much in the actual development of WordPress outside of testing and reporting bugs… I’m more active in the translation department. I’m a translation editor for all the WordPress plugins & themes on WordPress.org for the locale’s nl_NL(-formal) and nl_BE, which means all forms of Dutch basically. If you want to take a look at my work, you can see it on my profile. And if I contribute to a plugin/extension, it’s mostly issues with strings which make things less easy for translation. You can see most of my contributions on my GitHub profile.

That means, that I do a lot of things in my free time outside of spending time with my family. While it might sound overwhelming and a lot to keep up with, honestly, I enjoy it. I’m expanding my skill set and learning quite a lot. And not only that, I’m giving something back to the community.

What’s next?

Now, you might think that I want to spend less time writing. Because I have so many other hobbies or things I do outside of writing. And, that’s not true. I found that spending time on other things like speedrunning, translations, working on websites… It actually helps me to not burn out on writing. Like I said earlier in this article, variety is the spice of life.

I do have a collab in the works with a good blogging friend of mine, but I’m unable to make a lot of progress due to the busy times at my day job. Thankfully, after next week, it’s going to become a lot less busy, so I can focus on a lot of other things and maybe write more.

I’m also playing around with a few major updates on my blog, but I think most of them are going to have to wait until I have another vacation. Since it’s going to help me in keeping certain things up-to-date here on my blog. And yes, I’m also removing typo’s and such from older articles. If you notice one, feel free to give me a shout, and I’ll try to fix it as soon as I can.

So, what’s the summary of this update? I’m going to try to at least write 2 articles each month, and 4 if I can. I also started speedrunning, getting more involved with the development of WordPress and doing things for my local acting group. On top of that, my day job is extremely busy… eating up a lot of my time. And I don’t want to have it any other way. Mentally, I’m doing a lot better and that’s what counts in the end, in my opinion… If you are happy with your life, than all is well.

With that said, I want to thank you for reading this article, and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article, but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Review: Blood: Fresh Supply (PC – Steam) ~ He lives AGAIN.

Blood_logoWikipedia entry – Steam linkSteam link
The Build Engine. One of the biggest game engines ever created in 3D shooter history. Three landmark titles have been created in that engine called Duke Nukem 3D, Shadow Warrior and today’s topic: Blood. Back in the day, I used to download a lot of old archived shareware or demo versions of old DOS games. In one of these adventures, I downloaded the demo for the legendary Blood, and I was hooked. At the time, things like Steam weren’t what they are today and I still was in secondary school (high school for you Americans) and too young to start a holiday job. Then, on one summer Steam sale, I found this game for a rather cheap price and I thought: “Why not.”. So, I bought the game for €1 and moved on with my day. Then, COVID-19 happened last year, and I was looking through my game library to play after work. I booted up Blood, and it got my top 10 games of 2020 list. Why did I give this game a spot on my top 10 games list? What did I like so much about this game to place it on that list? Let’s find out together while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts/opinions on the content of the article and/or the game.

He lives AGAIN

Blood 1In this game, you take on the role of Caleb. Caleb has a reputation for being a merciless gunfighter from the Midwest. Caleb is a servant of the god Tchernobog and his minions called ‘The Cabal’. Now, for some reason, our “friendly” god kills Caleb and his fellow chosen for whatever reason and dumps Caleb in a grave. Caleb rises up from his grave several years later, and he is looking for vengeance of course.

Like your typical old school 3D shooters, the story isn’t the main focus of this game. Most of the story in this game is told through cutscenes at the start and end of a chapter and the environment that you are going through. Speaking about which, there is are  a lot of moments like: you start on the train you that you crashed in the previous level. The whole game feels interconnected due to small details like that.

There are a few cutscenes in the game that enhance the story by a little. The reason I’m saying only a little is that the total runtime of these cutscenes is give or take only 5 minutes. Which is a shame, since the cutscenes really added to the atmosphere of the game. On the other hand, I think that if this game had more cutscenes, it would overpower the gameplay and the environmental story telling.

There is voice acting in this game. Of course, you have your typical enemy shouting that is as immersive as the cowboy shouting from Outlaws. You also have your wise-cracking main character Caleb voiced by Stephan Weyte. Stephan also did voice work for one of my favorite edutainment companies Humongous Entertainment. He voiced several side characters in the Pajama Sam and Freddi Fish games. Before I start rambling about unrelated things for this review, I have to say that Stephan killed it with his performance in this game. His delivery is extremely memorable, and I love his voice work for this game. A fun fact is that the voice acting for our evil god has been done by the executive producer Jace Hall.

Should you play Blood for the story? Oh, heavens no. Don’t misunderstand me here, the story of this game is fine, but it is far from the best story you can experience in a shooter. The story is there to set the mood and set up the atmosphere of this game and to help you immerse yourself in the game. But, nothing more nothing less.

Now, if we check on the Blood Wiki on the amount of different versions and ports that this game got we learn that there are two versions of this game on Steam. You have Blood – Fresh Supply and Blood – One Unit Whole Blood. At the moment of writing, the “One Unit Whole Blood” version has been removed from Steam and the “Fresh Supply” version is still up for sale. I found a nice forum post about the biggest differences on the GOG.com forums between the two versions. As the title suggests, I played Fresh Supply for this review.

Crazy cultists

Blood 3I don’t think I have to explain what you have to do in old school 3D shooter games. You have to fight various enemies, find keys to open doors, do some platforming and solve some puzzles. Personally, I compare this game in a way to games like Heretic and Duke Nukem 3D. It’s an old school 3D shooter with amazing weapons and power ups to aid you in your battle against your enemies. There are a lot of different enemies with their own attack sound, strengths, and weaknesses.

Most of the weapons in this game has a secondary fire mode. For example, the double barred shotgun secondary fire shoots both bullets at once or the Tommy gun’s second fire let out a burst of bullets where you swing the weapon back and forth. You can even use one weapon as a turret and another weapon is a voodoo doll.

But the most iconic weapon in Blood is the dynamite. There are big differences in terms of the dynamite you can use. You have your normal dynamite, proximity, and dynamite you can remotely detonate. Depending on the chosen difficulty, the skill to use your weapons and especially dynamite is essential to your survival. I can’t count how many times I had to resort to dynamite to “thin out the herd”.

Speaking about the difficulty, if you aren’t too familiar with all Blood’s mechanics and secrets and different routes, I don’t advise the higher difficulty settings. I have to admit that I’m not the most skilled player when it comes to shooters and I had an extremely hard time with the medium setting. Get used to the mechanics of this game before you play on the highest difficulty settings and thank me later. The game is otherwise too frustrating for newcomers.

Earlier, I said that this game feels quite interconnected due to the level design. That start of the level represents the previous level. Most of the levels have a sort of linear design. You have to backtrack quite rarely. Yet, I found myself stuck in a few levels and the map system, while impressive, was far from helpful. Now, in terms of map systems, I think I might be spoiled by the more modern design methods where the key door locations are marked on your map.

Sadly enough, there are some moments that the level design wasn’t the best. For example, I found one or two spots where you can get soft locked. But more annoyingly, I found some monster rooms quite annoying since the exit gets locked, and you have to go switch hunt. I think these moments could have benefitted from Caleb saying: “Where is the switch” when interacting with the door.

This game is controlled through mouse and keyboard. While this game has controller support, I only played this game through mouse and keyboard. I didn’t have any problems with the controls and felt they worked amazingly. After a minor bit of tweaking to fit the AZERTY lay-out better that we use here in Belgium, I was able to master the responsive controls.

Visually, this game still looks fine. The visual improvements you can choose to either enable or disable are a great way to choose between the vanilla textures and the newer “more modern” visuals. Of course, this game really shows its age in the visual department but, that isn’t a bad thing for this game. I still find that the visual atmosphere is created amazingly, and I feel that the world still feels somewhat real and alive.

Something that truly impressed me are the animations. The animations in this game are a masterclass in how animations should look in shooter games. Enemies that get shot in the legs crawl towards you and keep shooting, enemies set on fire with a flare run around crazily… And that are just two examples.

Very rarely, I found some visual glitches. In one level there was some Z-fighting with a pillar switch. (Z-Fighting is when two textures overlap and the game can’t decide which one to show, so it flickers in between them.) In some spots, the shells of the Tommy gun vanished. These moments were thankfully rare and didn’t impact gameplay too much.

Dynamite

Blood 2The sound design in this game is extremely important. If you don’t pay attention to the well crafted sound effects, you might miss some important enemy cues especially from the zombies. Since those don’t die right away from the weaker weapons. So, yeah, heard of hearing and deaf people are disavantaged when it comes to this game.

Sadly enough, the soundtrack could have been better. I feel that it’s too short and for some reason, it bugged out during my playthrough and it didn’t always play. While I was writing this section of the review, I was listening to the soundtrack on YouTube and I heard some tracks I haven’t heard in the game. While the music in itself is quite good and adds a lot to the atmosphere but it being only around 30 minutes, I felt that the soundtrack is too short for the game’s length.

This game has the perfect length for a shooter game like this. This game packs all the expansion packs so that means that a casual playthrough might take you around 10-ish hours. If you want to go for 100% you might be able to double that. But, this game gets so much more challenging and rewarding when you play it on higher difficulty settings so you might be able to get a lot more hours out of it than that.

Now, there is one thing in terms of the UI I really didn’t like. That’s the weapon wheel / ammo system. Let me explain. In the bottom center, you can see how much ammo you have for your weapons. Just like in other shooters from that time period, you have no idea which number corresponds with which weapon. It still shows “0″ even when you don’t have that weapon. The weapon wheel also doesn’t really show well to which weapon it’s going to switch since, it’s a wheel. When you pass the last weapon, it goes back to the first.

There is one thing I feel that the game totally dropped the ball on. And that’s the saving system. It’s not that the saving system doesn’t work, but it’s extremely bare bones. This game uses manual saving. There is no checkpoint saves when you enter a new level, but that isn’t such a big problem. I don’t mind manually saving once in a while I enter a new level or passed a difficult section. What I do mind is that the load system doesn’t give you ANY information in which level the save is. On top of that, you only have a limited amount of save slots and no visual information when you successfully saved the game. I worked around it by naming my saves with the level name like: “E1M3” (Episode 1 Map 3) and some additional info, but it shouldn’t be such a pain. Thankfully, we have a way better system now-a-days.

A minor thing that I really didn’t like in this game is the respawn mechanic. Of course, when you die, you are going to respawn at the start of the level with only your pitchfork. No problem there. But, the issue is in my opinion that the reloading just take a bit too long for my liking. It’s always faster to load your save from the pause menu then waiting on the game to respawn you. It might also save you some frustration since “pitchfork starting” isn’t always the most enjoyable way to play some levels.

This game also has Steam Achievements. These were a whole lot of fun to try and get. After I had beaten the game, I got 6 out of the 20 achievements. I could have gotten more but for some reason, my game glitched out and some achievements are still locked. Oh well, all the more reason for me to play through the game again at a later date.

There is quite a long list of references in this game. While I was 5 years old at the time of the original release, I had to admit I was able to pick up on several references. Maybe my love for retro games and retro media might have helped me out quite a lot there.

Oh, before I forget, there is a multiplayer mode in this game. I’m sorry but I haven’t played it at all so I’m not going to comment on it. But, from what I have read and seen, you both have your typical death match gameplay and a way to play through the campaign in a co-op fashion. That is sounding quite interesting for when I can let friends come over again.

And with that said, I think it’s high time for me to wrap up this review. I have said almost everything I wanted to say about this game and before I ramble on and on, I’m going to wrap up this article in a neat conclusion like I usually do for my review articles.

Conclusion time

The good:

+ Amazing shooter with replay value.

+ Easy to learn but oh so difficult to master.

+ Still good looking after all these years.

+ Amazing audio design.

+ …

The bad:

-The save and load system isn’t the best.

-The weapon wheel is a bit broken.

-Some softlocks / switch hunting moments.

Final thoughts:

Blood is a game that came out in 1997. This game is almost 25 years old and I have to say that this game still holds up amazingly well. The visual improvements that the Fresh Supply remake brings to the table are amazing. It gives a breath of fresh air in an already amazing game.

While I was researching this game, I found several video’s by one of my favorite YouTubers Civvie11. The release of this remake wasn’t the best. Thankfully, through the years, the game got various patches and updates that improved the game quite a lot to the point that I barely noticed the points that Civvie gave in his original “Blood: Fresh Supply is broken” video.

Apart from some flaws, this game holds up amazingly well. I knew that Blood had a high reputation when I started playing it and I was so happy when the game didn’t dissapoint me at all. Of course, I encountered some jank because this game isn’t the newest but that’s to be expected.

Would I recommend this game to people who enjoy shooters? Absolutely. This game gets an easy recommendation from me. The game costs only 8,2€ here and let me tell you, you can play a lot worse games for that price. The few issues this game have can be taken care off and they won’t hinder your playthrough too much. Is Blood one of the best retro game shooters? Easy answer, yes. Yes, it is. It’s as good as the original Doom, Heretic, Hexen, Duke Nukem and if you enjoy retro games and especially shooters it should be a crime to not at least give this game a try.

And with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. I want to thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article and until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 95 / 100