The Realisation of a Dream

The very fabric of the universe is tearing apart.

Megadimension Neptunia VII is the first adventure that I’ve experienced in the Neptunia universe that isn’t part of the Re;Birth remake series. It’s an interesting one for that reason. Things that I’ve become acquainted to (such as the Remake system and Stella’s Dungeon) are not present, but there’s a bunch of other interesting ideas to replace them. Like the ability to invest in cities, which, for the most part, replaces the Remake system. Or the use of Scouts. Which also replaces some aspects of the Remake system.

There’s a world map (with actual enemy encounters), too.

Along with more emphasis on New Game+ in which more items become available the further you go. I was most surprised about this, as I know that Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth2 Sisters Generation used a similar mechanic for multiple endings- but New Game+ is almost required in Megadimension Neptunia VII. It’s still incredibly content dense without it, though.

It’s broader (with a much longer story) but simultaneously narrower (with much less to unlock and use) but there’s more emphasis on each choice. Weapons have been completely overhauled in this way, they are fewer in number but actually have specific combo capabilities. Chaining together effective attacks is more important, too. The EXE Drive returns but only lasts for a single battle, while Formation and Coupling Skills are actually based on surrounding an enemy. Or slicing straight through it. There’s quite a variety of those as well. You’ll easily be able to build effective parties (even with DLC characters) and utilise those powerful attacks. There are also specific intense boss battles with unique conditions which require HDD to be activated.

Even the quests have been reworked so that you need to earn access to higher rank offerings. It’s incredibly ambitious and ridiculously enjoyable. The lack of opportunities to grind endless experience in your first run presents much tougher opposition, with some boss battles becoming quite heated. The introduction of a smaller but more specialised cast is appreciated, too. The DLC characters are some of the best I’ve seen in the series, with many not only having a great selection of skills but really unique (and gorgeous) character models.

Then there’s the HDD Next Form for the CPUs.

Introduced as the ultimate evolution of the CPUs and requiring a second activation to unleash once available, it boasts skills that are so powerful they cancel out HDD once used and return the CPU to their human form in return for devastatingly powerful results. They also feature really gorgeous character models and some of the most impressive animations in the series.

I’ve only one regret with regards to Megadimension Neptunia VII and that is that it marks the end of the currently available content. That said, I’ve scarcely been happier with a series than I have been with this one. I’m looking forward to seeing them all through again in New Game+, too. Especially this one. Which boasts the highest replayability of the series. I was surprised by the depth of the story- which is actually three stories- and how enjoyable it was. The true ending was among the best I’ve experienced so far as well. I’m certainly looking forward to the return of Neptunia (in any dimension) and can easily recommend this series to anyone who enjoys JRPGs. Or Neptune. Even if you don’t now- she’ll grow on you. I promise.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Comparison in Blood

Currently experiencing a low infestation rate.

Darkest Dungeon certainly brought one of the more original ideas for bloodsucking abominations to The Crimson Court. Vampiric in nature, but not necessarily undead, the Bloodsuckers (as they’re fondly known) are actually variations of humanoid insects. They don’t sparkle, either. That said, there is a consistent theme in the art direction for Darkest Dungeon that often combines beastly features with humanoid anatomy. The Warrens is literally filled with dozens of examples. Not to mention those weird, misshapen, infested souls that plague the Weald.

The humanoid features make them more interesting, too.

A malformed bloody maw.

It also leaves me wondering how or why they exist in the first place. Or when they first appeared. But this isn’t meant to be an explanation of Darkest Dungeon lore (as fascinating as that would be), it’s meant to explain some of the thoughts I’ve had recently. Or, at the very least, attempt to explain those thoughts. As I’m not entirely sure that I understand it myself.

I think I’m focusing too much on the result. This particular pencil sketch is one of the rare few I’ve liked of the work I’ve done in recent weeks, which says a lot as it isn’t of a very high quality. But I like the approach. I liked how natural it felt (and how confident I was) approaching it. I attempted to enhance the original sketch digitally for the same reason, as I don’t feel as though my approach to digital paintings or illustrations is particularly sound. I never really stopped to think about how I would normally do things. I just jumped straight into painting without line work and going for a mostly realistic approach, which, again, I don’t think was a particularly sound decision. So in two ways this piece is teaching me more about my creative pursuits.

Firstly, that by being focused on the result I’m losing a lot of what makes up the piece in the first place. I’m not thinking about how to achieve the best representation of the piece- I’m instead thinking about how to work towards a result that I want for reasons I can’t explain. Secondly, that perhaps I’m not as inexperienced with digital paintings and illustrations as I would have assumed. Maybe I’ve just been doing things in the wrong way and expecting (for some reason) to get the representation that I wanted.

You can almost hear the maddening skittering…

I’ve also not questioned my approaches as much in the past as I have recently.

I’m most curious as to why that is. I don’t exactly feel different, but I’m wondering if maybe this is foreshadowing a great period of creativity in my life and I just need to get past these hurdles first. Almost as if I realise the potential I could have and because I’m not living up to it I’m squandering it. As egotistical as that may sound. Not that it’s intended to be egotistical at all.

I’m quite happy with the piece, too. If that wasn’t clear. I’m not entirely sure where it’s going from here, but I would assume that I’m going to work on the digital version a little further and perhaps even expand upon the original sketch. That’s one of the neat things about digital illustrations. You can keep adding, removing, and adjusting endlessly until you get the result that you want. Which is equally one of the worst things about digital illustrations, as nothing is ever done and can always be approached again. I’m also surprised at how efficiently I’m working through this piece. I’ve not run into the usual issue of spending significantly more time for a fairly similar result, which, hopefully, shows some amount of growth within my approach.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Art, design, and the like found herein (unless otherwise specified) is drawn and owned by David Wilkshire (also credited as Moggie) from 2006 to present date.

Darkest Dungeon, The Crimson Court, bloodsuckers, and all associated trademarks and devices are owned by Red Hook.

The Sunshine Estate

It’s not so dark now, is it?

Many things have changed since the full release of Darkest Dungeon. We’ve seen the introduction of town events, the Antiquarian, Radiant Mode, Stygian Mode (the rebalanced New Game+), heirloom trading, and the first story expansion with The Crimson Court. With the release of the expansion it seemed as good a time as any to return to the horrors beneath our family home. I’ve been meaning to go back to my previous estate, but, as you can probably tell from the title of this post, I instead opted for a Radiant Mode campaign.

It’s an interesting concept for a difficulty adjustment.

Rather than making the enemies and dungeons trivial, it instead makes the campaign shorter and reduces the need for grinding significantly by providing Radiant Mode specific stagecoach upgrades. Most things are cheaper, too. Which, when paired with an Antiquarian in your roster, reduces the need to grind for gold almost entirely. It’s a pleasant experience overall.

I’ve not played the default difficulty (now known as Darkest Mode) since release, but Radiant Mode has great pacing comparatively. Each week has a purpose and affords progression. Whether that progression takes the form of a boss kill, an upgrade to the estate, levelling up a hero, or even an expedition to the Darkest Dungeon. It’s nice that the challenge is retained, too. Failure is still possible if you don’t play well or use effective team compositions. Or forgot to bring torches to the second assault on the Darkest Dungeon. Which was the highlight of my entire campaign, as I noticed almost immediately but fleeing the Darkest Dungeon results in a guaranteed death. I wasn’t fond of that as I’d been training these heroes for this for some time.

Nightmare made material.

Which also made the mistake even more hilarious. Thankfully, I didn’t have any Sun Rings on the heroes in that party so fighting through in the darkness was at least doable. By virtue of Cry Havoc and Rallying Flare we were successful. I did take 60+ stress from Revelation, though. They acted before either of my guards could be applied. I had few deaths in this campaign, too. Besides that ill fated attempt at fighting a Shambler with an Antiquarian party that lacked the necessary damage. We killed the Shambler- but the spawn quickly finished us off.

Hilariously, that loss was worth two achievements.

With the release of The Crimson Court I would have to agree that Darkest Dungeon is in the best condition that it’s ever been in. The classes are all particularly useful for one reason or another, there are innumerable team compositions to provide different answers to similar problems, and there’s even new content (and a new class) to experience if you own The Crimson Court.

I’m intending for this Radiant Mode campaign to be the first in a series of campaigns. I was thinking of doing difficulty progression akin to how you work through normal, nightmare, and hell in the earlier instalments of the Diablo series. I’ve had a lot of fun with this estate, but I’m slightly dubious about the shortened campaign length. Given that I’ve spent nearly 50hrs in this estate at this point. Though, to be fair, that is likely shorter than a Darkest Mode or Stygian Mode campaign would be. I also took the time to kill all of the bosses, level up all of the classes, and do other things that aren’t necessary for the successful resolution of a campaign. I’m starting to think I have a problem regarding the completion of miscellaneous objectives.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Jovial July

Let’s make this month a good one.

I’ve been thinking about writing a post like this for a while. I’ve made numerous minor changes to all sorts of things recently and I felt like highlighting them, but previous iterations of this post never felt particularly coherent. So, if you’re reading this, this iteration made it. Good job, iteration! The first and most extensive change was to update both the Art and Gaming pages here on Moggie @ WordPress, which should (hopefully) make it easier to find what you’re looking for. Regardless of what it is or when it was originally posted.

This includes new sections for both of the pages, too.

These were the last few changes I wanted to make to the structure of the blog. Now that they’re implemented I’m free to update older content so that it can fit into the new structure, which mostly involves either new categorisation or presentation adjustments for those posts. It’s a background process in many ways. I’m actively working on it, but it doesn’t take priority.

The second change was to slightly adjust the presentation on my personal site by adding new thumbnails. These are slightly larger, lack the text, and I can only fit nine (instead of ten) per page. However, the loss of one thumbnail per page isn’t particularly notable. I’ve wanted to adopt a stronger visual presentation for my personal site for a while, which these thumbnails do and they’re incredibly easy to change back if I become dissatisfied with them. I can quite literally grab the old folder and throw it onto my server. I actually made that change a while ago (or a work in progress version of it) and liked it enough to finalise it. So, if nothing else, that gives me hope that this was a good idea. I couldn’t be wrong twice, right? Right?!

With the aforementioned changes now in place I’m feeling particularly good about how things are going. There are still improvements to be made- and there always will be- but I’m happy with the state of things as they are. I’m looking at YouTube and Twitch fairly closely, too. There are opportunities for both creative and gaming content on either of those channels. It’s definitely easier to put together videos as and when I have the time rather than set streaming schedules, but both are viable and I should keep both in mind.

It’d be neat to do some creative videos.

One thing that was painfully evident while updating my personal site is that I need to do more finished pieces. I’m definitely not seeing the correct representation of recent attempts. Mostly because many of those recent attempts have been material studies, which don’t make it to my personal site. So I’ve been wondering whether they should in the future.

I can only apologise for the erratic posting schedule of late. I’m still somewhat happy with it just because I’m only really posting when I have things to talk about, but I’d like to be more consistent. In so many ways. That said, I’m hoping that once I’ve worked through the infuriating indecision that I discussed in Mushroom Fluidity things will improve. At least creatively. So that’s something for both of us to look forward to. In any case, I do like to talk about the things I’m currently doing or will be doing in the future even if it’s not the most riveting content. That and now you can click on all of the above links and be astounded by the exceptional changes. Should keep you busy for a little while.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Mushroom Fluidity

Liquid mushrooms would be an edible oddity.

Not that I think liquid mushrooms would be edible and even if they were I would advise against trying them. Then again, we do have mushroom soup which is sort of like a liquid mushroom even though the actual soup is made of other things. This tangent is weird. Here’s an update on the works in progress present in Mushroom Inspired. They’re a little further along now, too. Two of them have been painted, while the third (which wasn’t present in the previous iteration) is still an inked sketch.

I doubt there will be further progress here, though.

I’m not entirely happy with the results so far. I don’t think that deathclaw even looks like a deathclaw any more, either. If it ever did in the first place. While I will admit that the reason I started this project was to improve my watercolour approaches, it’s not really working as intended as I think that the initial approach was flawed. It was too forced and inconsistent.

I don’t feel as though the original ink sketches were accurate to my ink approaches in general. Which is a considerable issue, as I’m trying to use an unfamiliar ink approach with a somewhat new watercolour approach. It doesn’t have any strengths. It doesn’t feel natural, either. This is an issue that is entirely my fault, but it’s probably best to move on from these pieces as I don’t really feel like they’re adding anything to what I’m doing. I just feel frustrated when working on them. Almost as if I’m fighting myself to finish them. It’s a shame as I’ve used a considerable portion of expensive paper to be met with failure, but the worst failures are the ones that you can’t learn from and I can definitely learn from this.

One step forward and two steps back.

The third ink sketch is a Fallout 4 deathclaw which has notable strengths and weaknesses. Most of the strengths are in the lines and the textures (especially the horns) which look great, but is equally as weak in the overall presentation. My original intention was to work on numerous smaller pieces to more rapidly gain experience. However, in practice that probably wasn’t the best approach. Especially as I’ve hit several walls actually composing the ink sketches to begin with. It has not been as easy of a run as anticipated.

I’ll likely work on larger pieces for the next run of watercolour paintings, too.

I’ve also been wondering if I’m putting too much pressure on myself for certain results. I’ve noticed that my general enthusiasm towards a piece lowers greatly when things aren’t going as planned, which, again, is an issue that is entirely of my own creation. I have departed from my usual approaches with several materials and I don’t think it’s doing me too many favours.

However, it does promise better things in the future. I’m just starting to wonder whether the promise of future results is worth sacrificing all of the current ones. Or if it’s even possible to reach those future results if nothing is working out currently. It’s an interesting issue, which I hadn’t really considered when I set out on this weirdly infuriating journey. I’ve learned an awful lot about myself creatively, too. Which is always a nice bonus. I’ve started to notice weaknesses I hadn’t considered before. It’s understandably frustrating, but I’m still hoping I can come away from this with a positive push forwards. I’m still mostly happy with how things are progressing so it’s not entirely awful just yet. But it is getting there slowly.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Art, design, and the like found herein (unless otherwise specified) is drawn and owned by David Wilkshire (also credited as Moggie) from 2006 to present date.

Fallout 3, Deathclaws, Super Mutants, Pip-Boys, and all associated trademarks and devices are owned by Interplay/Bethesda.
The Elder Scrolls, The Elder Scrolls Online, Morrowind, the Morag Tong, and all associated trademarks and de

March to June 2017

Changes abound!

The most significant of those changes would definitely be the new personal website I put together earlier in the year. I looked at the new design (and reasoning for) extensively in Season of Change, which also resulted in newly updated pages here on Moggie @ WordPress. I’ve not talked about those yet. But, for the most part, I’m reorganising the pages (and updating their layout) so that everything has a level of consistency. Wherein things are now easier to find and are where you would expect them to be. Which is good for everyone!

I’ve also changed over to the new section titles on the Art page.

We’ve had some interesting creative content in the last three months, too. Corruption Collection started them off by bringing together several pieces that I’d been working on recently, followed not long after by To Ink a Deathclaw which showed digital art some love. I also talked about the joys (and woes) of spending money on art materials in Expensive Mistakes.

Mushroom Inspired did the best it could to help us appreciate mushrooms, watercolour paintings, and the alien landscapes of Morrowind. It’s a pretty mixed bag. Ambitious Acrylic celebrated the purchase of new brushes, but lamented my inability to use them towards the results I’ve been hoping for. While Melty Black Goo looked at a recurring subject matter for my work. That of weirdly deformed human anatomy combined with strange black tentacles. Surprisingly, that’s safe to read if you’re at work. I’ll happily admit that I had been hoping for slightly more creative content in this time, but I’ve answered some of the questions I’ve been asking. Which is all one can really hope for in the wake of a disappointment.

A considerable portion of the gaming content in the last three months has been looking at The Elder Scrolls Online. An MMORPG that promised quite a lot and delivered a decent amount of it, which is both enjoyable to play and interesting to get lost in when you’ve got several hours to spare. Or even if you don’t have several hours to spare. That’s what MMORPGs do- they get you when you least expect it! You can read that entire series of events either via the Gaming page or through its dedicated category.

We also spent some time in the SteamWorld universe.

Steam Assimilation looked at SteamWorld Dig, which followed the events of Rusty as he dug ever deeper into the mines below and the secrets hidden therein. While Space Cowbots looked at SteamWorld Heist, which took a surprising turn with mechanics but continued the story of that universe as you adventured with Piper Faraday and her crew.

We got to see what happened next in the Hyperdimension Neptunia series, too. A Neptune to the Past follows the events of the third instalment of that series (Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth3 V Generation), which was, as always, a pleasure to experience and shows great evolution from earlier instalments. First Impressions of… Salt and Sanctuary exhausts the gaming content from the last three months, which (unsurprisingly) looks at the brutal ARPG Salt and Sanctuary that takes several cues but delivers something all its own. It’s not been a period of time focused on any one topic, but it’s definitely one that has delivered a range of different kinds of content be it gaming or creative.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Space Cowbots

Time to scrap the Scrappers!

SteamWorld Heist is an incredibly enjoyable tactical RPG offering the same charming art direction and quirky personalities present in SteamWorld Dig, but a departure in mechanics, presenting an adventure through turn based combat in mission sized bites, which is just as fun as the prior instalment but definitely more challenging. It’s the sequel that isn’t a sequel, which builds on the story of the SteamWorld universe but doesn’t require any previous experience to be immediately playable. It’s actually surprisingly intuitive in every way.

There’s a simple complexity in many of the mechanics.

Such as the characters themselves. Each is unique and named, with some sharing classes, but few sharing bonuses, and each has a signature ability that defines their role in combat. Every character has the capability to fight, but support and healing abilities are evenly distributed to help you develop effective party compositions to meet the challenges you’ll face.

Besides their innate abilities, characters can be equipped with a weapon and two utility items to provide statistical bonuses and further improve their effectiveness in combat. Utility items cover all sorts of bonuses such as bolstering health, providing retaliation damage, increasing damage, restoring health, or even some quirkier options like improved jumping. There are some that are best suited to certain characters which provide bonuses that fit their signature ability. Weapons come in a variety of destructive flavours, with everything from your standard revolver to an incendiary cannon which wouldn’t be out of place in the Worms universe. They’re enjoyable to use, too. They also feature ridiculous trick shots.

I feel as though an ancient evil has been unearthed.

Unlike other tactical RPGs which rely on calculated percentages to determine a successful hit, these weapons require you to manually aim (often with sights) to land a hit which make them a little more skill based than you might expect. With this comes ridiculous ricochet angles that allow you to land nearly impossible shots. These mechanics and varying mission objectives prevent repetition and stagnation in later missions. You should always keep a few extra weapons on hand, though. Some are definitely better suited to certain missions than others.

Be sure to stock up on Storage Units when and where you can, too.

Those will be important for carrying all of the equipment you’ll need to explore Deep Space. Which is a scary place. It really is. Levelling your crew will also be crucial to your success, which is handled via standard missions or particular solo missions which are designed to help you farm experience. Not to mention loot. So it’s a fairly comfortable experience overall.

One of the greatest successes of this title is the flexibility in everything from difficulty settings to optional content. It’s rare to have such control over how, where, and when you’ll progress with the story or with the optional content. Unrestricted access back and forth through maps gives you the opportunity to level up, recruit companions, visit vendors, and more at your own pace. Without fear that it will be locked out when you move to the next portion of the story. It’s refreshing to have options. I’d best describe Steamworld Heist as memorable and enjoyable. Something that’s fun to play, with an interesting story, and a unique cast of characters which are equally useful in the myriad missions you’ll encounter.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie