Nerdy Bookahs and their travel guide: Freiburg & Strasbourg

It is once again time for a real-life related blog post. Back to this blog’s roots, basically, but in real life instead of wandering through virtual worlds. This time we did go to a part in Southern Germany, to the wonderful town called Freiburg, and on our way back home, we made a detour to stop in Strasbourg, a town in France.

We did not encounter anything gaming-related like we did in Koblenz. However, both towns are still so pretty and picturesque that we wanted to share the scenery with you anyway.

Freiburg is a town located in Southern Germany (not in Bavaria, though, but in Baden Württemberg). I will spare you its history, as you can read all about it in the Wikipedia entry anyway. It is an old town, but that should not come to you as a surprise. This is Germany, not the USA, after all. ;) We also spent our time there (3 days) in the old town with only taking short glimpses at the rest of the town. We visited three museums, but did not take any pictures in there. We also went shopping for new small pillows as our hotel’s pillows were horrible (huge ones) and we had both woken up with stiff necks after our first night. And we stumbled into an Irish pub right before the Champion’s League game of Bayern München against… some other team… started. We had only been there for Guinness and burgers, so we ate and drank and then left again. The only time I’m a fan of watching football games is when it’s the World Cup. Maybe a couple of games for the European Cup, but not even that most of the time.

I guess we could have looked at everything in half the available time, but it was good that we had that much time since my hip is still “injured” (not really injured per se, but for the lack of a better description, let’s call it like this) and walking has to happen slowly. I had originally hoped to use the gondola lift to get up to “Schauinsland“, a mountain (with a very weird name, I might add). But with my hip, we didn’t even consider this – which doesn’t matter, as I just saw that the lift is down for maintenance at the moment anyway. Instead, we used the best day with lots of sun to slowly walk up the path until we were at a platform from which we could see the town quite well already. So we had decided to stop there and then walk back down again. I guess this means that we will have to go back to that region some day to use the lift and go up there!

What’s special about Freiburg is their little “Bächle” everywhere. We did wonder how many small dogs probably fall into them every year… :p Oddly enough, we saw an exceptionally large amount of large dogs in Freiburg, but hardly any small ones. Coincidence? I don’t think so…

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On our way back home, we made a detour to France to visit Strasbourg. I have always found countries’ borders fascinating. I remember asking my parents lots and lots of questions about borders when I was young. I knew what border controls were as we had passed through them regularly when going to Italy for a summer vacation, for example. But what confused me was: So there is this one border control here on this road… but… couldn’t we walk off-road and just walk into another country that way? Either way, there is no border control between Germany and France. You just drive on the road over a bridge connecting the German town Kehl with Strasbourg, without stopping and you’re there. The transition from Germany to France was noticeable by one thing mainly: At first, the street signs were in German, then they were in French. Yes, as easy as that. We spent the morning and early afternoon in Petite France. What shocked me was the complete lack of knowledge of the French language on my part. I had taken it for four years at school, but have not used the language at all for about 17 years or so. We understood enough to get around, though, and lots of people there even speak German. In fact, because of the city’s history, a lot of things sound very German over there like street names and so on. It was definitely interesting as I have never been to that part of France and I wouldn’t mind going there again. Especially because they have great tarte flambée.

Before I bore you even more, though, I will end this little report with pictures of Strasbourg, as mentioned, mainly from Petite France.

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Insights into indie game development

I bought “Gremlins Inc.” in early access and only barely noticed its official launch. Even if I hadn’t noticed it, though, the amount of search hits for “Gremlins Inc. review” would have likely tipped me off. :p I did write a “first impressions” piece and for several days, this blog post was getting quite a lot more hits than usual.

But even if you don’t like this game (digital board games aren’t for everyone), if you’re interested in getting a glimpse behind the scenes of indie game development, this company’s posts are quite interesting! So Gremlins Inc. is made by Charlie Oscar, an indie developer located in Vilnius, Lithuania. What has impressed me a lot so far, other than the game itself (or I wouldn’t have bothered linking to it, obviously :p), is the amount of “behind the scenes” information they have given us.

Gremlins Inc.

For one, I thought it was cute – and understandable, but mostly cute – how they celebrated every milestone in copies sold. In fact, I had seen one of those posts right when I was wondering whether to get the game or not. It made the company look honest and sincere with their customers. It is also refreshing to see that they celebrated those “tiny” milestones when other big companies boast about their “1 million copies sold”. Yes, of course, I would wish for them to sell a lot of copies! Still, there are small companies out there and they are happy about every single sale they make.

A few days ago, I saw them tweet about their game’s localization efforts and found this a very interesting read! Not only for me as their customer, but maybe also for others who are interested in making games and for whom such insights are valuable pieces of information. It wasn’t very surprising to see them come to the conclusion that German and French localizations are a must have, basically. I am German, I know how bad the English of lots of other Germans is. :p But the sheer amount of languages they offer their game in is astonishing and their thoughts and the impact those localizations had is fascinating. They also describe the process of how they worked with translators in different regions.

Today, they added another post about sales and early access. I am not a game designer, but I still found it interesting to get a glimpse into that part of gaming. In short, they come to the conclusion – which fits to what others have already said apparently – that Steam’s Early Access does not fund a game, but it at least gives them some additional money they wouldn’t have otherwise and it lets them create a community already. From my point of view, I would agree. A lot of people are careful about Early Access games – or Kickstarter and the like – because you just don’t have a guarantee that the game will be finished any time soon or ever. I have bought several games in early access now, but I always asked myself first: “Will I have fun playing the game in its current state?” – Only if the answer is “yes”, I buy the game. And I know lots of other people just don’t enjoy a game that still changes or that comes with lots of bugs etc. So those very likely won’t buy such a game.

But back to this post: They also share some insight into costs related to the manpower, rent for the office etc. and that somebody needs to actually run the business or hire and work with lawyers on top of everybody trying to make the game.

So far, they have not turned a profit on the game, but it only released one month ago (on March 11, so yes, exactly one month ago) and I hope they will make quite a few more sales. I know I will buy the original soundtrack when it comes out, because I just love game soundtracks. Not sure about DLCs, though. I am much more picky when it comes to DLCs and their “worth” (thinking of the Tropico ones mostly here). But we’ll see… maybe, if they’re good.

Atlas Reactor: Purchase into the beta or not?

Update May 7, 2016: Trion Worlds has just announced a change in their business model. Atlas Reactor will not be free to play anymore, but buy to play!

We’re going to be discounting the Atlas Pack to $19.99 for a short period of time. We will also be giving many opportunities to try the game before buying. Free weekends (including the weekend of May 13th – 15th), trials, friend referrals, and the Open Beta are all on the horizon.

So, read the following information with care as the whole “unlocking freelancers” part etc. are void. The goodies for Rift, Trove and Defiance are still there, though. :)

***

Open alpha is coming to a close and the closed beta will be open soon – on April 14, to be precise. As is custom for games by now, you can “preorder” or “pre-purchase” the game. Atlas Reactor will eventually be free to play, so you don’t actually have to pay anything for it if you don’t want to or cannot afford the purchase.

But just in case you are wondering about Atlas Reactors’ preorder packages, I thought I’d try to help you make a decision. For the most part, my blog post about my first impressions is still accurate. I still think it’s a “gem” and if the idea of playing a turn-based MOBA-like game sounds intriguing, then I definitely recommend checking it out! The question is now: Do you want to check it out in closed beta or wait until the game’s release?

So let’s have a look at the preorder packages. There are four different ones. The cheapest starts at 10 € (I’m rounding up here), the most expensive costs 100 €. All packages will give you 10 € worth of in-game credits to buy things. So, if you know you want to play the game and if you know you would spend some real money on the game sooner or later anyway, then why not jump in right away and get some extra bonuses on top? At this point, it’s probably also important to note that the ability to upgrade is not yet implemented, but planned. So, if you know you do want to spend some money, but you aren’t sure how much, it’s safe to invest those 10 € now and possibly upgrade later on. This is what bookahnerk and I have chosen, by the way. We know we definitely want to support the game, so we bought those… we would have access to the closed beta anyway, since we already had access during the first alpha.

Other than the in-game credits, there are three different “categories” of bonuses. Number 1 is goodies in the other games developed by Trion. You get “Zuki’s Helmet” in Defiance (cosmetic item, no stats!), you get a “Lil’ PuP Ally” in Trove and you get a sword and a shield skin in Rift. Number 2 is Atlas Reactor goodies like freelancers and skins as well as some boosts. I assume that some of those boosts will be bought with real money/in-game credits only. The same goes for the skins of the freelancers. The freelancers themselves all have both in-game credits as well as currency you get through gaming attached to them, so you will be able to eventually unlock all freelancers just by playing the game. The obvious advantage in these packages is that you can “buy” them right away and save time. The “Trust” package with 100 € is definitely a very committing one and I think the name of the package fits just too well. I would say you should only get it if you really know you will play the game and that you will want to play all the different freelancers – or if you at least know you will definitely want your freelancers to walk around with golden skins. ;)

Number three is tied to “community missions”. By doing these in closed beta, everybody who buys at least the 10 € package will get the community rewards. Those missions are not revealed yet, so we will have to wait until closed beta starts to see what they are and what we will get.

By the way, if you hover over the text lines on the preorder page, you will get more information on what you will be getting.

I was – and still am – tempted to get the upgrade for the 25 € package. The thing is: If they had included Nix, who is my favourite freelancer, or Garrison, who is my no. 2, I would have bought it in a heartbeat. Zuki, Rask and Aurora are not even in my top 5, though. So really, for me it was the question: Do I want to spend 25 € now and get freelancers I don’t really care about – or do I want to spend 10 € now to get the community rewards and the items in the other games (I play all of them, after all) and spend some more money once the game is released to buy some more freelancers… or maybe unlock the freelancers simply by playing and buy GG boosts which give XP bonus to everybody in my match?

So, long post short, I would recommend getting the 10 € preorder package if you like the game enough to know you’ll want to play during the closed beta as you get 10 € worth of in-game credits anyway, or the 25 € package if you like the freelancers that are included. The two more expensive bundles are probably rather for those who want lots of freelancers now or those who really want to show support to Trion for developing a great game.

Apple pancakes

GW2_Plush Tybalt Backpack_13Our regular readers may already know about my urge to change this blog’s content to one focusing on cooking recipes. This year is no different. The urge returned! But I thought this time, I would give a little nod to our past as a blog focusing on games. So, I figured I would give a small tribute to Tybalt (*sniff*) and dedicate this recipe to him.

Apple pancakes!

Light and dark apple pancakesWhen I was a kid, I actually never liked pancakes or crêpes. There were two exceptions to this rule. Number 1 was crêpes (with Nutella) when it was freezing cold outside, usually when I was at a Christmas market with my family or later with friends, but only one each year or so. And number 2 were my mum’s apple pancakes. I refused to eat them when she had not put apple in them. Yes, even if there was chocolate. There had to be apples. A few months ago, I remembered those apple pancakes and really wanted to make them, but did not have my mum’s recipe. In the past, when I had asked my mum for recipes, she often said: Oh, I don’t remember! – So, I went to the internet and searched a recipe database until I had found a recipe I really liked. I altered it a bit to fit to our tastes and now I can share it with you.

The ingredients should be enough for two people. I think it was something like 6 pancakes in total. You will need:

  • 3 eggs (fresh ones!)
  • 190 g flour
  • 190 ml milk (I use low-fat)
  • 190 ml mineral water (with gas)
  • 2 apples (unless they’re big ones, then one – or still two if you really like apples)
  • oil for the pan (I usually use about 10 ml here that I put on a paper towel which I use to “wipe” through the cold pan)
  • 2 g sugar (really, just a bit)
  • a bit of salt
  • baking powder (as much as you need for 190 g flour)

About the apples: We use red ones, usually Braeburn or Pink Lady, though Braeburn is better if you ask me.

Peel the apples and cut them into slices or smaller pieces. Separate the egg whites from the yolks. Add a bit of salt, the sugar, flour, baking powder, milk and water to the egg yolks and mix it well. Beat the egg whites until stiff. Add the stiff egg whites to the dough. Be careful, though, as the “fluffiness” should not be mixed away. Then put in the apple slices.

Heat up a pan. Add the oil. Wait until the pan is reasonably hot (not too hot, but not cold either – this depends on your oven). Add some of your dough now (about 1/6, but this also depends on the size of your pan… you could also make mini pancakes, after all). Wait until the pancake is “stiff” on one side and doesn’t stick to the pan’s surface anymore. Then carefully turn it around and wait again until it’s “stiff”. These steps can’t really be “measured” in time as every pan and stove is different. Also, some people like their pancakes a little darker than others. So it comes to personal preferences. I usually wait until I can safely turn it around with no issue because the pancake is loose in the pan.

As an additional warning: “Fresh” eggs are preferred because depending on how much heat and time you give the pancakes, the inside can still be a bit more liquid. So it’s safer to have eggs that are as fresh and possible.

I hope you enjoy these April pancakes! Bon appetit!

SAB is back!

We have been waiting for the longest time, but the day is finally here: The Super Adventure Box is back! And yes, check the day: It is still March 31. This is not an April Fool’s Joke.

Since this really does make a lot of people very happy, ArenaNet decided to give Rata Sum – or the corner with SAB, at least – a more festive look.

Rata Sum SAB is back

Now, please excuse me, I have some jumping to do!