Last week was E3, which officially marked the end of the Danswercise E3 Challenge. So how did I do?
I made it. Worked out every day. Some days were more substantial than others, but I made it work. Here’s some of the things I learned in the process:
- Saturdays are the hardest days for me to workout on. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I don’t have a schedule on Saturdays. On weekdays, I have a clear schedule and I can slot in the workout after work. Saturdays were spent waffling between working out early or working out late. My gym isn’t open past 1 on Saturdays either, which makes those late workouts even more difficult. Sundays generally weren’t a problem because those were days I explicitly designated for a long walk, but Saturdays were my least productive days.
- If I had counted mowing the lawn, which does burn calories, I would’ve had the Saturday problem nailed. According to MyFitnessPal, I burn about 600 calories mowing my front and back yard. That’s as much as a good workout.
- Bike riding is a real easy way for me to burn a ton of calories. In June, I changed my Thursday run to an hour long plus bike ride. If I just ride for an hour, including travel to the bike trail, I burn about 800 calories.
- On days where I didn’t count travel time toward my hour-long ride, I would get to the end of my bike trail before the 30 minute mark. I need to make a longer route.
- Exercising every day isn’t for me. I’d rather have five solid days of working out and two rest days than seven days that might be good or bad, but I’m doing something to say I did. My heart isn’t in it for seven days a week.
So that’s that. Today, I didn’t work out and I’m not going to feel guilty about it. I’m done. Tomorrow is the start of a new week, and I’ll put 100% into my workouts from Monday through Friday. But if I feel like I need more, I’ll either mow my lawn or go for a bike ride on the weekend and not sweat it if I don’t.
I don’t really need an excuse to workout, but I could use one to workout more. I’m already working out 4 – 5 times a week, so what’s two more days? That said, I should give myself some ground rules beyond just “workout every day”. So here’s what I’m going to stick to!
- Any physical activity I do for more than 30 minutes that I wouldn’t normally do counts as working out.
- Moving furniture doesn’t count, even though moving furniture sucks and I basically never move furniture.
- Mowing doesn’t count.
- Walking doesn’t count unless I go over my goal step count. My goal step count is 10,000. I rarely go over 5,000, and I usually go over because I’m running.
With those ground rules laid out, here’s a schedule of how I’m going to accomplish it.
- Monday – Body Pump / strength
- Tuesday – Run / cardio
- Wednesday – Body Pump / strength
- Thursday – Run / cardio
- Friday – Weightlifting / strength
- Saturday – A little strength, a little cardio? Or just cardio.
- Sunday – Something easy. Maybe work on that step count.
This feels like it was the longest month of my life. I blame Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag. Despite being a lot of fun, it was also really long compared to most games I play. I really wanted to finish South Park: The Stick of Truth, but WrestleMania ensured that wasn’t going to happen. I think I’m close to the end, but it’s April now, so it doesn’t count. I mean, it counts in that I will finish the game this week, but not for March Madness!!!
The stakes for both of us were really raised when we decided a week in to incentivize the competition with a reward of being able to spend $20 on video games guilt-free. Not that either of us really feel particularly guilty about buying video games, but it’s a coupon for $20 of video games, no questions asked. I thought Black Flag was going to be the end of me, and Katie had a few false starts. When she got moving, and I was still playing Black Flag, I was really concerned she was going to win it. I’m pretty sure the average completion time of the games on her list was fully shorter than mine, but she was more ambitious in what she put on her list than I was. But let’s take a quick look at the final stats.
|AC4: Black Flag
||Edna & Harvey: The Breakout
|Mark of the Ninja
|Strike Suit Zero
||Broken Sword 5
|South Park: The Stick of Truth
I kickstarted Strike Suit Zero. I love space dogfighting games, particularly the Colony Wars games, and cool mecha, so SSZ made perfect sense to me. It was good when it was released, but not great. It was difficult and it took a long time to get to the strike suit. Part of the difficulty was compounded by a lack of checkpoints mid-mission. When I picked it up for March Madness!!!, I restarted it with the updated Director’s Cut, which shortened the time to get to the strike suit and added checkpoints! It went much better this time around.
Game six is South Park: The Stick of Truth. I have a commanding lead in this competition. South Park is supposedly fairly short for an RPG, and I have three days left to start and finish it. With six hours of Wrestlemania tomorrow, this might be a real challenge.
That didn’t take long. According to a walkthrough, I came back into it halfway through. Median time on How Long to Beat is 12 hours, but it took me less than 10. This is one of those games that came from Kickstarter that I thought sounded like a good idea, but not enough to put my own cash behind it. It turned out very successful, and the game is pretty good, but it’s (clearly) a bit short. However, from what I understand, Dragonfall is much longer and a deeper game. For the purpose of this competition, I’m glad I rolled Shadowrun Returns before Dragonfall, though.
With a 16 roll, the next game is Strike Suit Zero. To even the odds a bit, instead of continuing where I left off on it, I’ll be restarting the game in the Director’s Cut release. I’m only a little concerned about this one because my major complaint in the original release was that there were no checkpoints during missions, so dying near the end of one could mean replaying 30 minutes of the game.
When Mark of the Ninja came out, it got a lot of positive attention. Klei was well-known for the Shank games, but Mark of the Ninja was supposed to be head and shoulders above it. I bought it and played the first level, and promptly put it in the backlog for something else. That was a mistake. It’s an incredible stealthy 2D platform/action game. It easily does some of the best representation of senses that I’ve ever seen. Line of sight, smell radius, and loudness of sounds are all perfectly implemented. There’s a fantastic mission 2/3rds in where you’re sent to assassinate someone. As you get closer to killing them, the music is building in parts, and it really feels like you’re the cold hand of death closing on their throat. It nails that feeling of striking from the shadows and disappearing into the night.
For my next game, I rolled a 3, which lands me on Shadowrun Returns. I’ve put some time into it already, but I think I’ve still got the bulk of the game to finish.
I knew it would take me some time to get through AC4, and it did. There were times when I wanted to stop playing, not because the game is difficult, but because it got real tedious in the middle. I’ve learned that when I’m playing an Assassin’s Creed game, I absolutely have to reign in the desire to do everything, and just play the game. Collect things until that gets boring, then do something else. The first quarter was fun, the last quarter was fun, and everything in between was tough to get through. Some of my favorite parts of the Assassin’s Creed series are all the weird lore stuff that they hide in the corners of the game, and AC4 did a great job of keeping all that stuff hidden away until the game was almost over. I got bits and pieces of it from all over, but they can’t be assembled until you get to the end, which is kind of brilliant. I almost want to play another Assassin’s Creed.
For my next game, I rolled a 9, which means I’m picking up Mark of the Ninja. I’ve read a lot of good things about Mark of the Ninja. Being a stealth game, I have a compulsion to play it absolute stealthy, as in no alarms. But I know I’m awful at stealth games, so I will have to settle for messy and close enough.
I don’t hate Thief. Let’s get that right out of the way. But it’s such a weird game for being a seemingly straight forward AAA title.
I feel like Thief would’ve been a better game if Dishonored didn’t exist. Not just that Dishonored is better by comparison (because it is), but it feels like Thief and Dishonored had a lot of parallel construction. Once Dishonored was released, well before Thief, it’s like the developers just gave up.
The levels are pretty linear, particularly when I got to the end of the game. At first I spent a lot of time searching around and trying to get all of the loot from each level, but halfway through I realized that I didn’t need all of the cash. Thief gives as much as you put into it. If you want to crawl around in the dark and pick every pocket and memorize guard paths, there’s plenty of it to do. I didn’t find it all that compelling though. When I stopped creeping around, the game didn’t put up much resistance preventing me from making a beeline to objective markers.
It does do a lot of neat stuff like animating Garrett’s hands as he picks up loot and pops open safes. I like those little touches. It’s also a dreary and bleak, but well-detailed world. There are a lot of notes and journals to collect, but the fiction isn’t particularly interesting. It has two boss fights, which don’t necessarily require turning them into pincushions but they still stand out as strangely out of place. Again, a weird experience.
The die roll landed on 1, so my next game is Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag. Out of all the games on my list, Black Flag might take the longest to finish. There’s a lot to do in it. I left off on it with a fair amount of progress, but I feel like I’ve still got a lot of game left in it.
I just ‘finished’ Destiny. It’s not really finished, because I don’t have The Dark Below, House of Wolves is still on the horizon, and I haven’t even hit max level, but I’ve completed all of the story missions. I’ve had a lot of fun but I’ll be looking for something different soon enough.
Katie had a great idea. We both have backlogs of games we haven’t played or haven’t finished and want to play. We both keep playing the same games over and over. To fix this, we’re going to force ourselves to play backlog games. We’ve both made lists of 20 games we want to play. We’re going to roll a die to pick a game off of our list, and then we’re going to play those games to completion.
And we’re going to call this March Madness, because that’s an entirely original name that isn’t being used by anyone ever to mean anything other than two dorks clearing video games out of their backlogs.
I rolled a 7 and got Thief (2014). Katie rolled a 19 and got Contrast. MARCH MADNESS!!!
I think I’ve played about as much of this as I need to. Saints Row 3 is the last complete original Saints Row. Saints Row 4, though almost as large as SR3, was more or less a rehash of SR3 but with a Matrix twist. Gat Out of Hell is SR4 except on an new arrangement of a smaller landmass. It’s not Steelport, it’s an original map, but everything looks and feels like the previous two games. It feels like we’ve been deriving less interesting games from SR3 ever since THQ folded.
Gat Out of Hell is, at best, a standalone expansion pack. It directly continues from the end of SR4. You can only play as Johnny Gat or Kinzie Kensington. You can’t change their appearance. There’s no licensed music. There’s not much music at all. There are no story missions per se. Once you start the game, you’re given free reign to do any of the multitude of side missions available. They’re all plays on the same missions from previous Saints Rows. Once you complete enough of them, you get the one boss fight in the game, and then the story is more or less done. It takes less than 3 hours to get through.
Afterwards, I spent a couple more hours completing the rest of the side missions, which rewarded me with animated epilogues for the companion characters. They’re no more than 30 seconds of video each. If I were to keep playing, I could pursue the rest of grindy missions like getting 100 kills with a particular weapon or power, or chase collectibles, but the game is over. My clock reads over 7 hours but no more.
The most interesting part of the game is that it offers something like 5 or 6 different endings, a couple of which could clearly lead to a more interesting Saints Row sequel. Hopefully it’s a ways off, because this series desperately needs a shakeup. It feels like they’ve thoroughly exhausted what they started in Saints Row 3.