Save point: February 2020

Welcome to February’s editorial post, a monthly progress report which rounds up all the happenings here at Later Levels in case you missed anything. With the GameBlast event finished for another year, let’s have a quick recap of recent events.

Blog life
Followers:

  • WordPress:   1,315
  • Twitter:   569
  • Facebook:   77
  • Instagram:   190
  • Twitch:   108
  • Posts:

  • Total published:   17 posts
  • Most popular:   #LoveYourBacklog Week 2020
  • Most liked:   #LoveYourBacklog Week 2020
  • Most discussed:   #LoveYourBacklog Week 2020
  • My favourite:   Heroes wanted: video games and the end of the world
  • Traffic:

  • Views:   1,506
  • Visitors:   749
  • Likes:   291
  • Comments:   89
  • Best day:   Fridays
  • Other posts worth checking out:

  • Tips on how to be a Skyrim Guard by Chris from The Elder Blogs
  • Escaping into a virtual world by Dale from UnCapt
  • Your Dream Resident Evil Date by Luke from hundstrasse
  • The Witcher and Women by Athena from AmbiGaming
  • Gaming – Trophies by Cynni from Cynni’s Blog
  • February has been all about GameBlast20 and raising as awareness as possible for SpecialEffect, the gamers’ charity. As much as we’re a little relieved our 50 days of streaming and 24-hour marathon session are finally complete as it means we can now get some proper sleep, we’re sad that the whole thing is over for another year! Thank you to everyone who has given us their support and donations over the past couple of months: you’ve helped us raise £600 for SpecialEffect, and we can’t wait to take part again in 2021.

    Alongside the streams, #LoveYourBacklog Week made a comeback for 2020. Everyone was invited to show their appreciation for their pile of games by sharing a post and it was great to read about your libraries! The backlog love continues next month with #MaybeinMarch, and intrepid bloggers taking part will be attempting to finally finish the title that’s been waiting on their backlog the longest. My own is a release I bought back in March 2013 – keep your eyes peeled for more details and a stream coming very soon.

    Gaming life
    Games played:

  • LUNA The Shadow Dust (videos)
  • The Longing (preview)
  • Too many games for GameBlast20! (videos)
  • Backed on Kickstarter:

  • Key Enigma: Hack Forward (preview)
  • I’ve lost count of the number of games played during our GameBlast streams. The ones which got the most attention were those involving impactful decisions: a 10-hour session devoted to Detroit: Become Human proved to be one of our most popular. My own highlight was getting into Life is Strange further. I’d previously tried to play it in September 2017 and only made it to the beginning of the second episode because I wasn’t ready to face all that emotion – but now I’m preparing to start episode three in another stream very soon.

    The only bad thing about our 50-day challenge was that we started many titles, but actually finished very few. I’m looking forward to playing whole games and seeing the end credits throughout March. The plan is to continue with The Longing, a unique little title where your patience is rewarded, after previewing it a couple of weeks ago, and play LUNA The Shadow Dust for a review next month. I’d also like to get stuck into more walking simulators after recently being reminded of how much I enjoy them.

    Real life

    Life is slowly getting back into its normal routine now that the GameBlast event is over for another year. Streaming for 50-days in a row is an achievement that’s been fun to do, but my other-half and I are looking forward to slowing down and having a few quiet evenings. That being said though, I doubt it’s going to be long before we miss it; we’re already planning to appear on Twitch a couple of days each week to keep the momentum going. The boys are planning to continue their Grand Theft Auto V adventures on Wednesday nights so stay tuned!

    It now feels as though we have a huge amount of spare time on our hands, although I’m sure that won’t be the case once in a couple of weeks we’ve returned to normal. Our next personal focus is going to be finally getting the downstairs renovations of our house finished so we can enjoy the summer without any building work. The bathroom was finished recently and next up is the kitchen – so expect lots of cake photographs on Instagram once it’s ready!

    Coming up
    Events:

  • 01-31: #MaybeinMarch 2020
  • 14: #MaybeinMarch 2020 stream
  • 15: London Gaming Market
  • 16: Gamers’ blog party – spring 2020 invitation
  • 26-28: EGX Rezzed
  • Every Thursday: #BloggerTalk
  • Take a look at the Side-quests page for more!
  • Posts planned:

  • Herdy Gerdy: my little gaming secret
  • LUNA The Shadow Dust review
  • Finally finishing Life is Strange
  • Good resources for gamers
  • A round-up from EGX Rezzed
  • 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!

    #BloggerTalk: 27 February 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:

    Celebrate what makes you awesome. Tell us why should people follow your blog!


    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.

    Key Enigma: the great escape

    2019 was the year of the escape room. After completing my first while visiting Tim and Jake from Timlah’s Texts & Unity 3D Tech in Bristol, I’ve gone on to attempt six more. This won’t come as much of a surprise to most readers given that I’m a big fan of the adventure genre.

    I’ve also started seeking out other experiences which give you that video-game feeling but don’t involve picking up a controller. A treasure hunt around London with Quitschisopholes from RNG in the summer twilight made for a lovely evening; and I’m in the middle of an escape-room-in-a-jigsaw-puzzle after kicking it off during our GameBlast20 streams in February. I also backed the crowdfunding project for Missing in Jericho by Crimibox last year and am eagerly awaiting my reward coming in April.

    I was therefore pleased when I found out about the Kickstarter campaign for Key Enigma: Hack Forward after its creators began following Later Levels on Instagram last month. This escape-room-in-a-box is set to immerse players in a challenging experience ‘so carefully designed that it may be impossible to distinguish reality from fiction’. It was this which caused me to make a pledge before even watching the original video: who doesn’t want to be in their own real-life video game?

    A physical box full of mysteries and enigmas will be sent to backers later this year. They must then use the materials, codes and clues hidden inside – along with their ingenuity – to match the objects to solve the case. As explained on the Kickstarter page, several types of puzzles will be set for us: for example, alongside traditional challenges such as working to reveal messages, there’ll also be digital puzzles where you’ll have to explore websites and even spy on security cameras.

    Similar to physical escape rooms, you can choose to register your time after completing each chapter of you’re feeling competitive. That may be easier said than done however, because only a third of the 3,000 people who have tried out the demo have successfully finished it on time! Don’t worry about getting stuck in the full game though: you’ll be able to ask the characters in the story for clues and hints, so you’ll always be able to move forward in your mission to protect the security of the world.

    Key Enigma are going to implement some interesting stretch goals if they’re able to smash their target of €28,500. The most ambitious is a global treasure hunt where everyone in the community will be invited to participate in one way or another. The quest will involve different cities around the world and the team say that even if your location isn’t included, you’ll be able to enjoy this interactive experience. The puzzles will be very complex and can only be solved through collaboration.

    Key Engima, Hack Forward, escape room in a box, women, puzzles

    Sounds exciting, right? Sadly I have a feeling that the minimum pledge amount may put some potential backers off because it’s higher than many other Kickstarter projects in the gaming category. This isn’t just an escape room experience that lasts for an hour though. We can expect eight chapters in a story which will last over eight hours and, although it’s primarily a one-time thing, the game is resettable so you can see the different ramifications of the plot or lend the it to someone else.

    The good news is that 632 backers have already given £30,728 to the campaign at the time of writing and there’s still a month to make a pledge. Check out Key Enigma’s website for more information, and give them a follow on Twitter to stay up-to-date on their progress.

    GameBlast20: lessons learnt

    That’s it: GameBlast20 is officially done. The weekend just done saw hundreds of gamers all over the UK come together through extended streaming sessions to raise as much funds and awareness for SpecialEffect. I’ve written about this amazing charity a number of times before but if you haven’t yet heard about it, please do check out the website.

    I’ve now participated in the GameBlast events for six out of the seven years it has been running, and every marathon has taught me something new – whether it’s about streaming in general, creating content or making new friends throughout the community. I always share a round-up of the lessons learnt each time to enable us to benefit from them the following year so, in normal Later Levels’ style, here’s an overview of our experience from GameBlast20.

    Lesson one: 50-days of streaming both is and isn’t a good idea

    As we’ve already attempted 24-, 48- and 72-hour marathons for GameBlast in the past, this year we wanted to do something different and decided to attempt streaming every day for a 50-day period. On one hand this was a great idea: it gave us an extended opportunity to test out our equipment and enabled us to create a checklist which we now follow whenever we go live on Twitch. It also gave us a chance of getting over our nerves of always appearing on camera and made us realise we can do it, even if we don’t always feel like naturals.

    But it’s not something I’d necessarily recommend: it’s so tiring and wrapping up the a challenge with a 24-hour marathon was unwise. We really struggled during the last four hours of yesterday’s session. It’s almost hard to believe we made it and I do feel a huge sense of achievement looking back on it now; but in future years, we’ll stick to doing several extended test streams before the main event to make sure we’re ready for it. Unless, of course, anyone fancies joining us for another 50-days in 2021?

    Lesson two: certain games are made for streaming

    We always knew that some games were better for streaming than others but being on air for 50-days in a row really drove home that point. Titles that were easy to pick-up-and-play and didn’t contain plenty of exposition were perfect and I’d suggest giving something like Neon Drive or 198X a try. What surprised us the most however was how popular narrative-heavy games with impactful decisions would be with viewers, like Detroit: Become Human and Life is Strange.

    The other thing that became apparent during this year’s GameBlast event was just how different my own and Pete’s tastes in video games can be. I got bored when he chose something more action-intensive and he almost fell asleep when I went for something story-based! Having different preferences to your partner isn’t a bad thing because it encourages you to broaden your horizons; but picking titles you can both enjoy at the same time is important if you’re completing a marathon streaming session together.

    Lesson three: hashtags, nicknames and Zelda Cam

    Something funny happened over the course of the 50-day period: we ended up with a bunch of hashtags that regular viewers would use and some of these lovely people even earned themselves nicknames. For example, #KaraokePete would be thrown into chat whenever my other-half started singing (even though he was adamant he’d never do a karaoke stream); and The Gaming Diaries ended up becoming known as The Voice of Reason thanks to her good decision-making abilities!

    These viewers weren’t turning in to see me and Pete however. The real star of the show was Zelda, and we stumbled on something special when we decided to set up second webcam so everyone could watch her (usually falling asleep in a weird position on my lap). You’ll be pleased to hear that ‘Zelda Cam’ will now make a regular appearance in all future streams and we might even try thinking up a few more ways to get her involved in upcoming GameBlast event.

    Lesson four: friends are what make a stream

    We’ve been asked whether we’re going to miss the continuous streaming and, despite how hard it’s been at times, I think in some ways we genuinely will. For a while it’s going to feel weird not rushing home after work to get everything ready to appear in front of the camera. It’s not so much the streams themselves we’re going to miss though: it’s the good friends we’ve made over the past couple of months and getting to hang out with them every evening. Much love to the following people:

  • Gao Li from Gao Li Occasionally Reviews
  • Jett from In Third Person
  • Dan from nowisgames.com
  • Tim and Jake from Timlah’s Texts & Unity3D Tech
  • The Gaming Diaries
  • James
  • Phil

  • Lesson five: we still need a new sofa

    Sitting on our sofa for 24-hours during GameBlast19 last year made us realise we needed a new one as quickly as possible. We’ve had the old thing for such a long time and I’m sure it wasn’t until a few days after the event that we finally regained the feeling in our legs. Did we bother to exchange it for another in time for GameBlast20? Unfortunately not, and now I’m once again writing a lessons-learnt post waiting for that pins-and-needles feeling to subside.

    In all seriousness though, it’s important to make sure you’ve got somewhere comfortable to base yourself if you’re going to participant in a marathon stream. Our plan is to finally get our downstairs house renovations completed this summer and this will give us a few options for GameBlast21. The living room will hopefully be a more comfortable space, we’ll have a dedicated gaming area, or we could even move the event to the summer-house at the bottom of the garden. Who knows?

    With your help, we managed to raise £600 for SpecialEffect over the weekend – and over £140,000 for the charity in total. This figure will help them to continue their work supporting many more people with physical disabilities in playing video games. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you: we’ve made some awesome friends along the way and can’t wait to do it all again next year.

    GameBlast20: we’re live!


    Join us as we take on 24-hours of gaming to raise as much funding and awareness as possible for SpecialEffect this weekend. This amazing UK-based charity puts fun and inclusion back into the lives of those with physical disabilities by helping them to play video games, through assessment and equipment modification.

    All donations received via our JustGiving page go directly to SpecialEffect and help them continue their wonderful work. Watch us play the games below on our Twitch channel, host us, share our press release, tweet about the event – we really appreciate any support you can give. Let’s do all we can to level the playing field for everyone!

    Date Time Genre Game
    Saturday,
    22 February 2020
    08:00 GMT Platformer Ori and the Blind Forest
    11:00 GMT Adventure Full Throttle
    14:00 GMT Virtual reality Astro Bot Rescue Mission
    17:00 GMT Co-op Knights and Bikes
    20:00 GMT Action Beyond Good & Evil
    23:00 GMT Horror Alan Wake
    Sunday,
    23 February 2020
    02:00 GMT Shooter Mass Effect
    05:00 GMT RPG The Elder Scrolls Online
    08:00 GMT Stream ends Sleep


    We’re taking part in GameBlast20 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.)


    GameBlast20: game schedule revealed

    This weekend, hundreds of committed gamers all over the UK will be participating in marathon streaming sessions. This isn’t just being done for fun though: we’re all coming together for the GameBlast20 weekend to raise as much funds and awareness as possible for SpecialEffect.

    This amazing charity believes everybody should be able to benefit from the joy of gaming. Their aim is to put fun and inclusion back into the lives of people with physical disabilities by helping them to join in, through technology such as modified hardware and eye-controlled software. By levelling the playing field in this way, they’re bringing families and friends together and having a profoundly positive impact on confidence and rehabilitation.

    In the past we’ve completed extended streaming marathons for the GameBlast event but this year we’re going even bigger: we’ve managed to play video games for at least an hour every day since Sunday, 05 January 2020. This might seem like an easy challenge at first but adult responsibilities have a habit of getting in the way! So far we’ve managed to rack up over 100 hours of streaming and the end of our 50-day challenge will see us attempt a 24-hour session from 08:00 GMT on Saturday, 22 February 2020.

    ‘But what games are you going to play?’, I hear you cry. Well now we can reveal all as the results of the GameBlast Bytes Battle are in. We’ve been asking you lovely lot to vote for the titles you’d like to see us play on Twitch since the beginning of the year, and the winners can be found below.

    Date Time Genre Game Votes
    Saturday, 22 February 2020 08:00 GMT Platformer Ori and the Blind Forest 69.23%
    11:00 GMT Adventure Full Throttle 70.37%
    14:00 GMT Virtual reality Astro Bot Rescue Mission 72.00%
    17:00 GMT Co-op Knights and Bikes 64.00%
    20:00 GMT Action Beyond Good & Evil 51.61%
    23:00 GMT Horror Alan Wake 55.17%
    Sunday, 23 February 2020 02:00 GMT Shooter Mass Effect 88.00%
    05:00 GMT RPG The Elder Scrolls Online 57.14%
    08:00 GMT Stream ends Sleep 100.00%

    Thanks so much to everybody who took part in the polls! We’ve ended up with a nice, varied schedule and there are a few highlights I’m really looking forward to. Although Pete was disappointed that Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 didn’t win the vote, I’m pleased that Mass Effect came out on top because I haven’t played it since it was released; and who can resist that bunny-minefield scene from Full Throttle?

    All money raised via our JustGiving page goes directly to SpecialEffect, to enable them to continue their wonderful work and help many more physically-disabled gamers across the UK. We’ve already received a few very kind donations and are currently at over a third of our £500 target for the charity – much love to everyone for their support!

    We’re taking part in GameBlast20 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.)