How Night Terrors Forced My Family To Unplug

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You never forget the moment where you wake up to your child screaming. The bleary-eyed rushing to their room only to find them awake but not awake. The early night terrors Wyatt experienced were full of him:

  • Tracking objects, with his eyes, that were not there… but if you watched him, you’d think there was something.
  • Shivering, teeth chattering to the point you’d think that they might break.
  • Pure terror.

Night terrors make a parent feel helpless as it is hard to convince someone, who isn’t awake, that there is nothing trying to kill them.

Tabitha and I started to notice a pattern though. Looking at our bedtime routine, we were watching TV, specifically playing videogames, up until the point Wyatt went to bed. So we re-evaluated our evening routine and turned off the television. 

For me, being the dad who loves sharing gaming with his kid, this killed me. KILLED ME! The effort it takes to read a book aloud or play a boardgame is far more than turning on the TV and playing a game. Call this being a lazy dad at the time, I admit it now. But our evenings changed for the better. The night terrors, which seem to be caused by a combination of electronic stimuli and tiredness, slowly faded away. Over the years, with each book we read aloud, each boardgame we played, we slowly learned to interact more as a family in the evenings.

Today, I can’t say everything is perfect. The night terrors like to rear their heads on the occasion (but are more infrequent). We still watch TV shows before bed, but we have learned that certain TV shows don’t seem to trigger the night terrors as much as others (I think it has something to do with the amount of blinking lights). Our family reading time has segued into Wyatt having his own reading time at night.

My Little Scythe

Smart parenting often requires sacrifice. In our case, that has meant moving any gaming time away from bedtime (we’ve noticed that an hour buffer works). I’ve learned that I can still game with my son but that often it is good to shake things up with no screens. The battlefield of the Chess board, the trophies of My Little Scythe, all work together to make non-screen memories and keep the night terrors at bay.

Refresh My Muscle Memory, Please

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I played Assassin’s Creed Odyssey for a couple of hours the first week. The second week, life got in the way, and I didn’t get a chance to play. By the time I picked up a controller the third week, I couldn’t remember how the game controlled.

I’m not sure about you, but I come across this problem quite a bit. Modern AAA games feature complex controls that require the memorization of many buttons. Which works out fine as long as you play consistently. As an adult though, I go through periods where I’ll start a game and then come back to it weeks to a month later. This is a game killer for me.

My Odyssey boat has been dead in the water for a few weeks now. I’m stuck on a mission where I have to sink some Athenian vessels blocking a harbor. I’m good with the boat controls but things go south once I try boarding. I can’t remember how to block, my muscle memory draws a blank when it comes to the rhythm of combat.

Duh, I’m not sure what to do.

Sure, I could look up the controller button layout diagram and try and figure out how to parry/block. In fact, I did! Last night, I tried the boarding party portion of the mission again and failed. FAILED! At this point, I’m frustrated with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey just as I was with Batman: Arkham Knight (another game with complex controls that doesn’t look kindly on players taking a break from it).

Game developers need to include some sort of quick gameplay tutorial. A five minute run down that helps the player re-acclimate to controls and remind muscle memory of a games particular rhythms. I wonder if player retention and player percentage of completion would go up with a refresher tutorial feature?

As my gaming time stands, I find myself gravitating towards games with simpler controls. Controls that I can pick up quickly and get into the game faster with. Unlike a good book, which is easy to drop in and out of, most modern AAA games are a pain to take a break from. I want that pain to be eased, and I’m sure game developers would like that too. So I’m asking developers for a simple feature, refresh my muscle memory, please.

No Man’s Sky

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I won’t ever forget the first time Wyatt and I came across an alien creature in No Man’s Sky. I wanted nothing more than to feed the creature and be friends. Wyatt had other plans. Once he got a hold of the controller, he blasted the creature with a death ray. ZAP! Moments later, the creature was gone.

The other alien animals around us started to run. We had blood on our hands.

“Why did you do that!?!”

Wyatt giggled, surprised that I was so angry at him for blasting the creature.

Quit Game? Yes, please.

No matter what type of game developer Hello Games promised to deliver, No Man’s Sky was a dream waiting to implode. Early trailers hinted at space travel that would allow the player to:

  • See a planet
  • Fly down to said planet’s surface
  • Land / Explore gorgeous environments brimming with life
  • Take off
  • Do it all over again

A blackhole of expectations soon formed in the gaming sphere. Hype morphed No Man’s Sky into the second coming of space simulators. The greatest space exploration game ever made.

Expectations are savage beasts. Release day revealed No Man’s Sky to be a survival game with heavy resource collecting. Disappointed gamers didn’t know what they were playing on their TV screens. Hello Games had failed gamers, everywhere, or so the Internet said.

50 First Dates

After our initial creature disaster, Wyatt and I stayed away from No Man’s Sky for months. In the meantime, Hello Games continued to release patches for the game. One of the patches added a Creative Mode. MineCraft is all about Creative Mode, No Man’s Sky should be just as fun, right?

Creative Mode presented us with options to build any of the game’s units. We first built a space base with twisting and turning corridors. There was no logic to our design, we were having fun. After we tired of base building, we discovered that we could build vehicles. Oh yeah! We drove the various rovers as hard as we could, launching them off of cliffs and trying to blow them up. The Creative Mode was fun while it lasted.

The Update

Months passed. 9 months to be exact. I heard about the Atlas Rises update changing the game for the better. Wyatt and I popped the disc in once again. Outside of prompts telling the player what to do next and a text log story, not much had changed. The core pacing is still the same. Which means the pacing is slow. Travel, whether on foot or in a ship, takes too long. The sprint feature exhausts too quickly. If space is this boring, I can see why the United States hasn’t returned to the Moon in decades.

Wyatt’s Thoughts:

I liked:

  • Exploring the planets.
  • Flying around in the spaceship.
  • Shooting the asteroids in outer space.
  • Trying to get the plutonium, other minerals, and stuff.
  • In Creative Mode: That I could drive around in vehicles.

Bottom Line:

My friend Josh has viking funerals, for games, all the time. He’ll delete the game from his hard drive and then remove the game from his house. I’m there. In fact, I’ve already gotten rid of the game.

In the end, I applaud Hello Games for embracing such a massive and ambitious concept for their first game. All the bones of a good game are present. But Hello Games shot for the Moon with No Man’s Sky and missed. Here is hoping that they learn to let go and try new things. Game patches do not always make perfect.

wavesplinter1/5 – Don’t waste your time.

Wave SplinterTitle: No Man’s Sky
Developer: Hello Games
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4
Reviews on: PlayStation 4
MSRP: $39.99

Yonder

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Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles opens with mystery. After years of being away from your island home, you are returning. Where you’ve been, what you’ve done, are all non-issues. As you sail near the island, your boat is struck by lightning. And then, a spirit named Aaerie appears…

“WHAT IS THAT!? That’s scary.” – Wyatt, age 8

You are then tasked with removing the Murk, the bad stuff, that has infected the land.

Cast onto the rocks of the island of Gemea, you wake up wet and cold. You venture forward, knowing you must head yonder.

Yonder excels at encouraging the player to keep moving forward. See that mountain over there? Let’s go explore it! The core exploration is fantastic, as the world feels alive and begging for adventure. Wyatt and I found ourselves tromping all over the place. Minutes would span into hours. And in a first for us, Yonder caused us to fight over who was playing. An achievement for developer Prideful Sloth.

We love running around and exploring. But we dislike the Pokémon collecting, lite farm simulator, and generic MMO quest system.

Nothing like Pokémon Collecting

To defeat the Murk, you, the player, need to collect Sprites. Think Pokémon-like creatures who enjoy playing hide-n-seek. Some Sprites are captured by simply finding them. Tag. You’re it! Other Sprites require small quests of appeasement, a “I’ll join your quest if you give me 5 wood”, sort of thing. The Sprites are cute. However, they do not add special powers or unique interactions to the game. I feel like this was a missed opportunity. As they exist, Sprites are content gatekeepers. Want to destroy the Murk in this area? Sorry, you need to collect 5 more Sprites.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch

Early in the game, you come across a farm with broken fences. You are immediately tasked with bringing the old place back to life. Once done, you discover that this is no farm but a ranch. A place to hold animals, who poop, a lot. Yonder allows the building of various animal pens by collecting materials. That’s about it. While I wasn’t expecting a Stardew Valley experience, Yonder left me wanting more.

The Compass is Broken

As Aaerie tasks you with clearing up the Murk, she gives you a Celestial Compass to give you your bearings. The compass shoots a beam of light to the quest giver for whichever quest you are on. The big problem, for Wyatt and I, is that the compass only points at the original quest giver. The compass does not update location based on where the player is in the quest. As it stands, the compass is a broken tool we’d love to see fixed.

Which leads me to talk about the quest system. The quest system comes across as padding or filler. There is nothing meaningful in having to collect x-amount of wood for an individual. Modern quest design has pushed past the “kill ten rats” mindset. Yonder tries to wrap this generic design around meaningful stories. For example, the one quest that sticks out to me is one where we helped a lady grow a beard. This required us to go to a specific pond at night. Collect a certain type of fish (Side Note: The fishing mechanic is spot on). Prepare the correct concoction, etc. A silly but unique quest. I wish more of the game’s quests were as memorable.

Wyatt’s Thoughts:

The Good

  • I like running around and exploring.
  • I like being friends with the animals.
  • It feels like playing a Link game with no monsters or weapons.

The Bad

  • The day and night cycle is too fast (but I think that’s their point).
  • I don’t understand the story or what is going on.

Bottom Line:

Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles failed to grab Wyatt and I. This is not to say that the game is bad. Yonder is a good game that is perfect for playing with children in the room. For us though, we needed a reason to keep coming back. Depth to either the farming system or to collecting Sprites would have done this. If you are looking for a game to play with your family that encourages exploration, Yonder is the game for you. Prepare for many hours of walking, map reading, and feeding all the animals. As your in-game pockets fill with items collected, perhaps Yonder will grab you more than it did Wyatt and I.

wavesplinter2/5 – A beautiful game that lacks purpose.

Wave SplinterTitle: Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles
Developer: Prideful Sloth
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4
Reviews on: PlayStation 4
MSRP: $19.99

*Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles was reviewed using a code provided by developer Prideful Sloth.