#BloggerTalk: 31 December 2020

#BloggerTalk takes place over on Twitter from 21:00 to 22:00 GMT on Thursdays. Each week, everyone is invited to give their thoughts on a specific question connected to blogging, writing and the community so we can all learn from each other’s knowledge and experience.

For more information about how #BloggerTalk came to be and its aims, check out this post and feel free to get in touch. Without further ado, let’s take a look at today’s question and get the conversation going:

What’s your favourite blogging memory from this year?


If you’re a long-time blogger, perhaps you’d be willing to share some of your experience and help guide those who are new. And if you’ve just joined the community, welcome – you’re part of one of the best and most supportive groups out there. I look forward to seeing you on Twitter for #BloggerTalk.

Save point: a review of 2020

Tomorrow is the final day of 2020. It’s time for taking stock, looking back over our achievements and being proud of the fact that we made it through such a strange year. It’s also the perfect opportunity to consider where we want to go in the future.

I decided to publish a proper end-of-year review for the first time in December 2019. It was something I was initially nervous about because I’ve never really taken resolutions and goals for the blog that seriously, but then I realised: sharing this information wouldn’t only help me grow as a blogger, it might be useful to others out this too. Now I’m back with the 2020 edition to look over the past 12 months so let’s find out how Later Levels did and think about how this could potentially shape the site in 2021.

2020 overview
Followers:

  • WordPress:   1,667
  • Twitter:   627
  • Facebook:   92
  • Instagram:   236
  • Twitch:   200
  • Posts:

  • Total published:   221 posts
  • Most popular:   The Longing: knowing Shade
  • Most liked:   Blogging awards: breaking the chain
  • Most discussed:   Keeping my blogging to myself
  • My favourite:   Never growing up: too old for gaming?
  • Traffic:

  • Views:   33,075
  • Visitors:   18,958
  • Likes:   4,682
  • Comments:   2,298
  • Best day:   06:00 on Mondays
  • Achievements:

  • Raised £600 for SpecialEffect as part of GameBlast20
  • Participated in game-swaps with several blogger-friends
  • Hosted The Great Blog Crawl with Ellen from Ace Asunder
  • Mentioned during a SpecialEffect stream
  • Made more good friends through both WordPress and Twitch
  • Games played:

  • Played:   85 games
  • Completed:   56 games
  • Demos played:   42 demos
  • Previewed and reviewed:   39 games
  • Kickstarted:   10 games
  • Games of note:

  • Favourite played:   The Painscreek Killings
  • Favourite of 2020:   The Longing
  • Least favourite:   Thomas Was Alone
  • Favourite Kickstarter:   Chinatown Detective Agency
  • Most looking forward to:   Book of Travels
  • 2020 charts: blog

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

    Views, visitors, likes and comments

    Although the average views per month has increased every year since Later Levels started in December 2017, a strange trend occurred in 2020: the number of views and unique visitors increased substantially since June. I believe I know the reason for this however and give an explanation in one of the sections below. The statistics might look good but the data is so skewed that it’s hard to get a true picture of how well the blog performed this year, because I can’t tell how many of these hits are from ‘true’ readers.

    The only thing I can say for certain is that the number of comments left on posts is dropping and COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the blogging community. At the start of the lockdown period in March, we saw an increase in the number of people turning to blogging and video games to fill their hours; then many moved over to more interactive platforms such as Twitch and podcasting as they sought social interactions; and now people are taking time out for themselves as they become digitally-drained as a result of lockdown-lifestyle.

    I understand this very well, having felt a similar way back in June after organisers of many of the annual expos decided to take their events online rather than completely cancel. In July I made the decision to take a break and I stopped spending so much of my life online. The hours I now devote to reading blog posts and commenting on them has reduced as a result; and as I’ve written before, how can you expect anyone to leave messages on your articles if you’re not doing the same in return?

    Best days and times

    Like 2019, the best time of the week for Later Levels visits remains on Monday morning – although the time has changed from 06:00 to 07:00 in the past year. The blog parties still seem to be a driver for this as they take place at the start of the week and these posts always receive the highest number of likes and comments. In an attempt not to skew the data any more than it already is (see above), I’ve removed these events from the overview table given at the start of this review.

    Saturday, 29 March 2019 is still the day that had the best views ever and I’m still unable to work out why. No posts were published on this date and, although there were a few big blogging events on the site that month, they all occurred well before or after. The best I’ve been able to come up with looking at the WordPress statistics is that a particular visitor from the UK checked out an awful lot of posts on that day – although I’m unable to say who this was and what they were looking for.

    Popular posts

    The most popular post during 2020 by far was The Longing: knowing Shade. Now why on earth would an article about a small indie game that really won’t be to everybody’s tastes have done so well? I think have the answer. In digging through the WordPress Stats and Insights, I was able to discover that a link had been placed on a somewhat dodgy-looking website where you can apparently find places to download the game for free. Sorry to anybody who found the post this way: you’re not getting any pirated freebies here.

    The next most popular posts were Twitch tips: advice for new streamers and Good games for non-gamers. As mentioned above, many people have turned to streaming during the COVID-19 lockdown and are looking for guidance on getting started; and non-gamers have been searching out new pastimes to fill the additional free hours. I’m sad to report once again that there were no rude search terms for this year – and I have no idea how 53 people managed to find the blog after entering ‘amazon’ into Google.

    Friends and commenters

    The WordPress statistics show an average of 10 comments and 21 likes were left for each post published during 2020. The lovely people mentioned in the tweet opposite deserve a round of applause: between them, they left a total of 221 comments so we clearly had a lot to talk about. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Frostilyte from Frostilyte Writes and Nathan from Gaming Omnivore through their streams after our game-swaps; and Ellen from Ace Asunder has become a good friend this year thanks to a shared love of cats and memes.

    It’s hard to predict how the blogging landscape may change in 2021 because so much is unknown. I’m hoping we’ll start to see a return of the community aspect and more collaborations over the coming year but perhaps that’s a little too much to ask for, considering everything else happening in the world right now. The silver-lining of 2020 has been the bloggers whom I’ve had a chance to know better and being able to support each other through these tough times.

    2020 charts: Twitch

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

    Streaming statistics

    New for 2020, I’ve added statistics for the Later Levels’ Twitch channel into the review post as we started streaming consistently this year. This began when we decided to attempt the 50-day challenge for GameBlast20 throughout January and February: a stream of at least an hour each day for that period rounded off with a 24-hour marathon. Although it took a whole lot of effort and sore thumbs, we managed to raise awareness and funds for SpecialEffect and made us realise how much we enjoyed playing games on Twitch.

    There’s an obvious dip in the figures for June and this correlates with my decision to take a break. As a result of the lockdown, I felt as though I’d been living too much of my life online – work, socialising and entertainment – and needed to step away for a while. This resulted in me writing a short series of posts about our experiences with streaming in July and, as mentioned above, one of them turned out to be the second most viewed article during 2020.

    We’ve decided to stick to a streaming schedule going forward because it feels like the best way to keep ourselves motivated. But this comes with a caveat: since the summer, we’ve agreed to give ourselves the space to be able to pull out of a scheduled stream if something arises or we’re just not feeling it. Streaming should be fun and it won’t be that for us if we start treating it like a job; statistics don’t mean anything if you’re not enjoying yourself, raising awareness for a worthy cause and spending time with friends.

    So there you have it: a round-up of Later Levels’ performance over the last 12 months. But what does this mean for 2021? Come back on Friday for a post sharing my blogging goals for the coming year and in the meantime, have a very happy New Year’s Eve tomorrow.

    We’re taking part in GameBlast21 to support SpecialEffect, the gamers’ charity.
    Making a donation will bring you great loot, increase your XP by +100 and make you immune to fire.*
    (*Not guaranteed.)


    Save point: December 2020

    Welcome to December’s editorial post, a monthly progress report which rounds up all the happenings here at Later Levels in case you missed anything. With Christmas now behind us and thoughts turning to the new year ahead, let’s have a quick recap of recent events.

    Blog life
    Followers:

  • WordPress:   1,662
  • Twitter:   627
  • Facebook:   92
  • Instagram:   235
  • Twitch:   200
  • Posts:

  • Total published:   20 posts
  • Most popular:   Gamers’ blog party: winter 2020
  • Most liked:   Gamers’ blog party: winter 2020
  • Most discussed:   Gamers’ blog party: winter 2020
  • My favourite:   The best games to play at Christmas
  • Traffic:

  • Views:   3,605
  • Visitors:   2,112
  • Likes:   486
  • Comments:   314
  • Best day:   06:00 on Mondays
  • Other posts worth checking out:

  • Everyone in Brothers is an Asshole by Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost
  • Looking Back: Art of 2020 by Frostilyte from Frostilyte Writes
  • The Correct ‘Game Of The Year’ 2020 by Toasty from Games With Toasty
  • Exclusive Santa Statement by Mr. Wapojif from Professional Moron
  • Our 2020 Games of the Year! by William from WCRobinson
  • Later Levels reached its fourth birthday last week after another year of blogging was completed. 2020 has certainly been a weird time for both the site and WordPress community in general, and it feels like we’re all ready to let out a collective sigh of relief at being able to put the past 12 months behind us. Hopefully 2021 will be a little bit brighter and we can all get back to doing the things we love with renewed enthusiasm after having a well-deserved rest during the Christmas break.

    That’s not to say things have been quiet though because several celebrations took place in December. First, I took part in the 30 games tag after being inspired by Nathan from Gaming Omnivore; and then came the #CreativeChristmasCollab from Chris Durston, which gave me the chance to share what makes one of my blogging-friends so great. And we gathered at the winter 2020 blog party during which 23 amazing posts were shared, and I’ll be rounding off the year with a full review of the year on Wednesday.

    Gaming life
    Games played:

  • Call of the Sea
  • Dishonored 2
  • DOOM Eternal
  • Greyhat: A Digital Detective Adventure
  • Horizon Zero Dawn
  • Quern
  • Röki
  • Sea of Solitude
  • The Night Before The Night Before
  • World of Warcraft
  • Yakuza 0
  • Games previewed or reviewed:

  • VA11 Hall-A
  • December’s EXP Share hosted by DanamesX from Tales from the Backlog was all about the gift of gaming so I looked back over some of my favourite gaming memories for the occasion. Several of these involved my stepson Ethan as we bonded over gaming when we first met. Our mutual love of video games has made it easier to talk about how to use them responsibly over the years – and I think Pete and I will be putting that to good use, now that the teenage years are upon us and he’s starting to play game online.

    A big thank you to the awesome Frostilyte from Frostilyte Writes for giving me my final game-swap of 2020. I’m not sure I would have played VA11 Hall-A if it wasn’t for his selection and would recommend this one if you’re a fan of visual novels and personal stories. For more game suggestions, why not find out what my blogger-friends are playing during the holidays in this month’s collaborative post or check out the great titles I selected for this year’s beginner’s guide to indie.

    I’ve spent most of my free time this month playing Yakuza 0 and I’m firmly blaming Nathan from Gaming Omnivore for this. Watching him stream part of it made me want to try it for myself, and now I’m kind of hooked…

    Real life

    So here we are back on lockdown, with a lot of the UK now under tier 4 restrictions. It’s certainly been the weirdest Christmas we’ve ever experienced; not being allowed to socialise with people from other households meant Pete and I were unable to see our families and spent the holidays alone. The only silver-lining was that we had video games and chocolate to keep us company, along with a few blogger-friends who joined us on Twitch.

    I’m not sure I would have believed you if you’d told me I’d still be working from home in December back when the first lockdown started in March. On one hand, I’m finding myself missing London and it was lovely seeing parts of the city in Watch Dogs: Legion; but on the other, the talk of returning to the office in January scares me more than I’d like to admit. The events of 2020 have made us all more aware of our mental health and how to manage it better, as well how video games are a positive thing for our wellbeing.

    We’re still battling away with my old PC and the poor thing is clearly on its last legs. Pete has been keeping his eyes open for the parts he wants for a new machine and we’re hoping to have this sorted by the time GameBlast21 comes around in January. We’re asking for everybody’s help when it comes to deciding on which games to play during our 24-hour charity stream for SpecialEffect, so head over to this post to cast your votes and help arrange our schedule!

    Coming up
    Events:

  • 01-31 January: EXP Share
  • 07 January: Shadowrun stream
  • 21 January: Shadowrun stream
  • Take a look at the Side-quests page for more!
  • Posts planned:

  • Blogging goals for 2021
  • My stepkid’s excitement over the new Xbox
  • Call of the Sea review
  • Getting fit with zombies
  • More GameBlast21 updates
  • And now over to you guys: what have you been up to lately, and what have you got planned for the coming month? Is there anything the community can help with or get involved in? Let everybody know in the comments below so we can show our support. Thanks for reading!

    Christmas kisses and birthday wishes: 2020

    It’s Christmas! Curl up with that new video game from Santa, hunt through Steam for bargains, and get your controllers and mince pies ready. Who knows, you might even be able to rope your mum into a game once she’s had a sherry or two.

    I’d like to take this festive opportunity to wish everyone a very merry Christmas and happy New Year before we all get caught up in the madness of the day. I hope you have a lovely time and find everything you wished for waiting for you under the tree; and that 2021 is a year of change and hope. May it be filled with happiness, love, laughter and even more great video games.

    It’s a double celebration here at Later Levels as today is the blog’s fourth birthday. The last four years have been such an incredible experience filled with so many opportunities and highlights, but most special of all are the talented bloggers I’ve met along the way. I’m now privileged to call some of them friends in real life and they’re some of the most amazing people I’ve ever had the chance to know.

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart and, once again, merry Christmas.

    Kim   ❤️

    PS: remember I asked you guys to bring along festive tunes to the winter blog party a couple of weeks ago? Enjoy!



    #BloggerTalk: 24 December 2020

    #BloggerTalk takes place over on Twitter from 21:00 to 22:00 GMT on Thursdays. Each week, everyone is invited to give their thoughts on a specific question connected to blogging, writing and the community so we can all learn from each other’s knowledge and experience.

    For more information about how #BloggerTalk came to be and its aims, check out this post and feel free to get in touch. Without further ado, let’s take a look at today’s question and get the conversation going:

    Give a shout-out to the blogger who has helped you the most this year!


    If you’re a long-time blogger, perhaps you’d be willing to share some of your experience and help guide those who are new. And if you’ve just joined the community, welcome – you’re part of one of the best and most supportive groups out there. I look forward to seeing you on Twitter for #BloggerTalk.

    Beginner’s guide to indie (2020): part two

    It’s time for the second part of the 2020 edition of the beginner’s guide to indie. If you didn’t find something that tickled your fancy in the first post yesterday, then hopefully we’ll manage to put that right today.

    While part one focused on independent titles that came out during the past 12 months, we’re now looking forward to 2021 and checking out some indie games which are due to be released in 2021. As mentioned yesterday, I tend to favour the adventure genre or titles with strong narratives and this is obvious from the following list – and I’d encourage you to give them a look even if they’re not the sort of thing you’d usually play. Without further ado, let’s round off 2020’s guide!

    Beyond the Veil

    Perhaps my favourite title from LudoNarraCon this year was Beyond the Veil by Sun’s Shadow Studios. Thanks to a love of creepy stories (although I’m too scared to play scary games on my own) and a long-time desire to visit New Orleans, this text-based horror has earned its spot on my wishlist. Although much wasn’t given away in the live broadcast, the end of the alpha build made it clear that something bad was about to happen to the protagonist – and I’m looking forward to finding out what waits in store for her.



    Black Book

    I’ve written before that I don’t enjoy turn-based combat, but Morteshka’s Black Book demo convinced me to back the for Kickstarter campaign. This game tells the story of a young girl destined to become a witch and left heartbroken when her beloved dies in mysterious circumstances. She’s given the Black Book, said to be powerful enough to grant any wish to the person able to unlock its seven seals, and sets out on a quest to bring him back to her. Will she surrender to its forces and become a lost sorceress or will she atone for selling her soul?



    Book of Travels

    Book of Travels is another game I backed through Kickstarter and is somewhat unique. Might and Delight have said this is going to be a very different sort of MMORPG experience, even going so far as to call it a ‘tiny multiplayer online’ because few players will be on each server. It takes place in a world called Braided Shore inspired by fairytales and Eastern mythologies, and focuses on social roleplaying, exploration and non-linear narratives in a beautiful place with darkness at its edges.



    Chicken Police

    I went into the demo unsure of what to make of Chicken Police because you don’t often come across black-and-white titles featuring protagonists with feathery heads and beaks but human bodies and mannerisms. But two hours later and it was added to my wishlist immediately. The interesting contrast between these crazy characters and a mature storyline brings us something completely different and it kept me on my toes throughout – and I’m a complete sucker for noir detective games. (Disclaimer: Chicken Police is already out but I haven’t played it yet and wanted to include it on today’s list!)



    Children of Silentown

    I really enjoyed the demo for Children of Silentown during this year’s Digital Dragons Indie Celebration. There was something about its dark, fairytale atmosphere of Elf Games’ title that drew me in straight away. The story revolves around Lucy, a young girl growing up in a village deep inside a forest where people frequently disappear, and there were just enough hints of something sinister happening in the section I played to leave me wanting more. Looking forward to this one when it’s released in full.



    Chinatown Detective Agency

    General Interactive Co.’s Chinatown Detective Agency is inspired by the classic Carmen Sandiego games and will take players on an adventure across the world in hot pursuit of criminals, witnesses and clues. Its setting was influenced by media including Blade Runner, The Da Vinchi Code and Black Mirror, and the cases you choose to follow up on as private investigator Amira will matter. Do you side with the shadowy underworld informant or root out corruption for a junior politician?



    Gamedec

    Gamedec takes place in Warsaw City at the end of the 22nd century, where many people choose to escape into virtual worlds to enable them to fulfil their fantasies forget about the horrors surrounding them in real life. These digital lands have therefore given rise to the problems of human nature and their residents often call for specialist private investigators to aid them. Players step into the shoes of one such Gamedec, and it looks like Anshar Studios are going to give us a release which is full of moral dilemmas.



    Ghost on the Shore

    I wishlisted Ghost on the Shore by like Charlie as soon as I’d finished the demo. I want to discover the history of its characters, the mysterious reason for one of their deaths and whether the other manages to escape a deserted island. Walking simulators only work for me personally if I can find some way to connect to their characters and the developer seems to be working on a gorgeous project which is going to achieve this. Any protagonist who says the line ‘Let’s investigate the shit out of this’ is going to be one I can relate to.



    Rosewater

    After enjoying Grundislav Games’ Lamplight City in August 2018, I couldn’t wait to give the demo for Rosewater a try when I heard the developer was working on another title. This time it’s a Western adventure which takes place in a sleepy border town once the prospectors have realised that there’s no gold in them thar hills. It’s here that Harley Leger has found herself several years after leaving New Bretagne and heading west to leave the past behind – but she doesn’t expect to end up on a journey across Western Vespuccia in search of a hidden fortune.



    The Wild at Heart

    My favourite demo from the summer Steam Game Festival was The Wild at Heart by Moonlight Kids. It was a wildcard (no pun intended) as I picked it randomly thanks to its artwork – and I was left impressed, with another title added to my wishlist. It’s similar in gameplay to Overlord and Pikmin, and its story about two kids finding a mysterious realm within a forest is charming. I may have encountered a bug during the demo which prevented me from finishing it (the developer is working on fixing it) but I can’t wait to get my hands on this one.



    Hopefully you’ve found a few indie releases in this year’s guide that have inspired you to give them a try. If you have any other recommendations, please feel free to leave them in the comments below so I can add a few more entries to my wishlist!

    We’re taking part in GameBlast21 to support SpecialEffect, the gamers’ charity.
    Making a donation will bring you great loot, increase your XP by +100 and make you immune to fire.*
    (*Not guaranteed.)