The Great Blog Crawl 2020: drinks menu

Update at 10:10 BST on Monday, 22 June 2020:

The Great Blog Crawl 2020 is back! From Friday, 26 June 2020, we’ll be visiting the questions for anyone who didn’t catch them the first time around before heading to the virtual pub from 19:00 BST on Saturday, 18 July 2020. Check out this post over on Ace Asunder for more information.

Update at 15:45 BST on Wednesday, 03 June 2020:

It’s with heavy hearts that we’ve taken the decision to postpone The Great Blog Crawl 2020 virtual pub today. For further details, please see this tweet.

Original post at 06:00 BST on Saturday, 30 May 2020:

Attention, future patrons of The Great Blog Crawl’s virtual pub! We’re pleased to announce the hiring of our official bartender for the evening: the awesome Quietschisto from RNG. He’s just as good at making drinks as he is at writing blog posts.

He’ll be presenting a crash-course in cocktail-making during the event from 19:00 BST on Saturday, 06 June 2020. If you’ve ever wanted to turn your kitchen into a bar and create some radiant refreshments (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic), here’s your chance. Check out his shopping list and join us at our virtual pub on Twitch where we’ll be playing games, sharing Quietschisto’s tutorial videos for anyone who’d like to mix along with him, and revealing the winners of The Great Blog Crawl 2020 quiz.

The Great Blog Crawl, logo, title, writing, beer

There’s still time to join in if you’re not already taking part. Simply download your answer sheet, follow @GreatBlogCrawl on Twitter or Facebook for the questions and visit the 50 blogs mentioned to find the information you need to solve them. Please don’t share your answers though as this will spoil the fun for everybody! Further details and deadlines can be found in this post, check out Solarayo’s article over on Ace Asunder too, and you can always get in touch with us if there’s anything else you need.

An important note: this event has been designed to bring the community together during the lockdown period and celebrate the amazing blogs around us. It’s in no way intended to put pressure on anyone to drink and if alcohol isn’t your thing, then we fully respect and support you. Quietschisto will even be including two non-alcoholic beverages in his tutorials so we’ve got you covered. Absolutely everyone is welcome to participate in The Great Blog Crawl quiz and we hope you have a fabulous time.

Good luck to all our contestants! We’ll be waiting for you at the bar next weekend.

Like The Great Blog Crawl artwork? Check out Heather Agoncillo on Instagram.

Save point: May 2020

Welcome to May’s editorial post, a monthly progress report which rounds up all the happenings here at Later Levels in case you missed anything. With online gaming expos now being the new hot thing, let’s have a quick recap of recent events.

Blog life

  • WordPress:   1,429
  • Twitter:   591
  • Facebook:   83
  • Instagram:   197
  • Twitch:   135
  • Posts:

  • Total published:   20 posts
  • Most popular:   Conversation and critique: Finding Paradise
  • Most liked:   The video games that define me
  • Most discussed:   The Great Blog Crawl
  • My favourite:   Plea of Thieves: peaces of eight
  • Traffic:

  • Views:   2,057
  • Visitors:   1,189
  • Likes:   338
  • Comments:   114
  • Best day:   Mondays
  • Other posts worth checking out:

  • Reflecting On My First Livestream by Ian from Adventure Rules
  • Self-Care Tips From Link by Kris from Double Jump
  • Why I Don’t ‘Review’ Games by Pete from MoeGamer
  • I Dislike that I Like Likes by Pinkie from Pinkie’s Paradise
  • 10 Kickass Women in Horror Games by The Horror Gamer
  • Missing your local drinking hole during the lockdown? Then Solarayo from Ace Asunder and I have just the thing you need. We kicked off the first Great Blog Crawl in May and invited everyone to join us in a quiz that has them ‘crawling’ through 50 of the greatest sites in the blogosphere. Quietschisto from RNG is our official bartender for the event, and you can check out what you’ll need to make some great cocktails (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) during our virtual pub on Saturday, 06 June 2020 in this post. There’s still time to part and you can find all the details here.

    A Mystery Blogger Award from The Late Night Session last month gave me a chance to consider what Later Levels would be about if I wasn’t able to cover video games. It’s safe to say that the subject of the site won’t be changing any time soon and I’ll continue searching out the best point-and-clicks, while wishing for sequels to some of the adventures I love. I’m a little surprised that the four games I chose as those which define me in a response post to a tweet from Alex Sigsworth weren’t all from this genre – but there was no way I could miss RPGs Fable and Eastshade from my list!

    Gaming life
    Games played:

  • Black Book prologue
  • Chrono Trigger
  • Contradiction: Spot the Liar!
  • Dark Nights with Poe and Munro
  • Diablo III: Reaper of Souls
  • In Other Waters
  • Overlord
  • Return of the Obra Dinn
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider
  • The Blind Prophet
  • Demos from the Digital Dragons Indie Celebration
  • Games reviewed and previewed:

  • Beautiful Desolation
  • Beyond the Veil
  • Black Book
  • Keepsake
  • Lost Words: Beyond the Page
  • Ring of Fire
  • Sea of Thieves
  • The Flower Collectors
  • Demos from the Digital Dragons Indie Celebration
  • Due to the cancellation of many expos this year, we’ve seen an increase in the number of gaming festivals taking place online. LudoNarraCon went ahead at the end of April and I had the opportunity to try several demos, with text-based horror Beyond the Veil being my favourite. The Digital Dragons Indie Celebration followed earlier this month and I was rather taken by Children of Silentown and The Blind Prophet. The following week, I bought the latter and completed it on the same day because the protagonist was such a good character – I hope he returns for a sequel at some point.

    Another event worth mentioning was The Eurovision Division which was brought back again for 2020. Thanks to Dan from and Phil for keeping Pete company during five hours of The Division 2, which enabled me to watch all this year’s Eurovision entries and declare the Iceland entry as my winner! In other news, if you’re into turn-based card games I’d recommend checking out Black Book; although I don’t usually like such mechanics, it’s dark storyline and artwork persuaded me to back it on Kickstarter.

    Real life

    We’re now into our third month of lockdown in the UK, although restrictions have been eased a little in the past few weeks. My employer is now talking about re-opening in September so there’s still plenty of conference calls while working from home coming up. It will be interesting to see how many companies start thinking about asking their staff to work remotely permanently; I’m not sure if this is something I’d want to do myself because certain projects are better done in person, but I’ll admit that I’m enjoying not having to do the daily commute.

    We’ve now returned to having my stepson Ethan with us every weekend and it sounds as though the lockdown has been hard from him. He’s had very little contact with his friends and isn’t really allowed to play video games at his other home – the sort of things that are incredibly important to a 12-year old. To cheer him up, we recently arranged his first Dungeons & Dragons session for him with Kevin from The Lawful Geek as our dungeon master.

    Once he got over his initial nerves, he absolutely loved it. The fact that we all made it out of the crypt alive, were able to prevent a town from sinking into a swamp, broke a curse and were transformed into knights made Ethan’s day. It’s looking like we’re going to start a ‘proper’ game at some point soon, and we’d highly recommend Kevin if yo’re looking for a dungeon master who’s great with new players.

    Coming up
    Events in June:

  • 01-04: The Great Blog Crawl 2020 quiz
  • 01-04: NarraScope 2020
  • 01-26: To The Moon Play-Along
  • 01-30: Summer Game Fest
  • 06: The Great Blog Crawl 2020 virtual pub
  • 06-08: Guerilla Collective
  • 09-14: Steam Game Festival: Summer Edition
  • 11: Shadowrun stream
  • 11-14: The Escapist Indie Showcase
  • 15: Gamers blog party: summer 2020 invitation
  • 23: New Game+ Expo
  • 25: Shadowrun stream
  • Every Thursday: #BloggerTalk
  • Take a look at the Side-quests page for more!
  • Posts planned:

  • Lockdown activities which aren’t video games
  • Coming-of-age games for Ethan’s birthday
  • My ever-growing Steam wishlist
  • A response post to an award from Hobbits Of Hyrule
  • A round-up from the summer Steam Game Festival
  • 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: 28 May 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 us your favourite inspirational quote, to boost our blogging motivation!

    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.

    What if Later Levels wasn’t about video games?

    Here’s a question for bloggers: what would you do if you were no longer able to write about the current subject for your site? Would you take the decision to start again by finding a new topic of interest and, if so, what would you then cover?

    This was the conundrum posed to the nominees for a Mystery Blogger Award by The Night Owl from The Late Night Session back in April. I’ve found it one of the most interesting and hardest questions to respond to so far because, since Later Levels started over three years ago, I’ve hardly ever deviated from the subject of video games. Occasionally I’ve posted something about blogging itself and have also written a couple of posts for other blogs about different areas, but I return to gaming consistently.

    Locked In A Room, team, lab coats, Kim, Joel, Jake, Pete, Tim, GeekOut South-West

    Perhaps I could write about escape rooms instead? As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve grown to love them since trying my first in January 2019 and I managed to complete seven in total last year. It’s certainly a subject I’d be excited about covering but I’m not sure how sustainable it would be for me personally: my other-half and I have now completed most of the rooms in Essex which interest us, so we need to start going further afield. Blogging content would therefore be limited to where and when we were able to travel.

    How about other types of games instead then? My enjoyment of escape rooms has encouraged me to try a few treasure hunts, jigsaw puzzles and online detective experiences over the past six months, and this has been particularly convenient throughout the UK lockdown since March. It doesn’t feel like a good enough answer to The Night Owl’s question though. It’s a subject that’s still very close to gaming and one I touch upon sometimes now, so maybe I should be thinking of a completely unrelated topic.

    A New Way of Cooking With Chocolate, book, Hotel Chocolat

    So what about cooking? You can usually find me in the kitchen when I’m not playing video games; and thanks to some helpful advice from Teri-Mae from Sheikah Plate, I recently started making bread by hand once a week after we were unable to find any in the supermarket during a shopping trip. The thing is though, I’m just not that creative when it comes to recipes. I’m more likely to follow someone else’s and tweak it slightly to my family’s tastes, rather than create an entirely new one from scratch for an audience.

    The truth is that I can only ever see myself blogging about video games now. Both hobbies have become so entwined since 2016 that I’m not sure one would exist without the other any longer. If I didn’t have a channel to share my thoughts about the games I’m playing, it would feel as though something was missing; and if I blogged about a different subject, I don’t think I’d get as much enjoyment out of it because I wouldn’t be a part of the gaming community here at WordPress.

    Being so narrow in the topic for your blog isn’t necessarily the best way to go though if you’re looking to increase your views and followers. Many professional and casual sites I follow have moved away from video games only in recent years and now cover board games, films and books too. Logic says that the more subjects you write about, the wider your audience will be and surely that can only be a good thing when it comes to attracting readers and generating revenue.

    But there’s also an argument for sticking to one topic. I remember reading something about the same time as setting up Later Levels, which recommended writing about a single area only so you could position yourself in the community as an ‘authority blogger’ – someone who’s considered an specialist on their subject and whom others turn to for support or recommendations. If you’re continually expanding your number of topics, how can you hope to become an expert in any of them?

    What I’ve come to realise over the years though is this: all that blogging advice you find online is an utter load of rubbish (I’m being very careful not to swear here). You’re better off totally ignoring it and simply focusing on having fun with your site. Write about things you’re genuinely interested in, because you’re the one putting in the effort and that will happen far more easily if you’re enthusiastic about doing it. You’ll also notice the side-effect of creating content that others enjoy as much as you do.

    That’s why you’ll find me sticking to video games. I’m grateful to The Night Owl and the Mystery Blogger Award nomination for giving me the opportunity to think about a different future for Later Levels; and I might write about something else occasionally, as well as start posting more bread photographs on Instagram. But gaming is what I’m interested in and excited about, and I can’t think of anything else I’d rather blog about – or another community I’d rather be a part of.

    Plea of Thieves: peaces of eight

    One of my favourite things about video games, other than narratives, is exploration. I love the feeling of being transported to somewhere wonderful and given a new world to discover, not knowing what lies in store around the next corner or over that mountain in the distance.

    This is the reason I find myself always returning to The Elder Scrolls Online (ESO). I might put the controller down for a while after playing it constantly for several weeks, but you can guarantee I’ll end up going straight back to it after a few months. It’s thanks to Solarayo from Ace Asunder (my gorgeous partner for The Great Blog Crawl event) that I’ve reinstalled it again recently after she decided to try it for herself during the lockdown. It’s amazing how quickly you get back into it and it feels as though you’ve never been away.

    video game, The Elder Scrolls Online, Argonian, female, lizard, woman, book, reading, library

    There are so many things to enjoy about this game. Find a book and the tales within help create a world which feels living, with its own history and colour. Dungeons provide plenty of action if you’re brave enough. And when you’re tired of slaying monsters, you can head in any direction and simply run because there’s all sorts of other things waiting out there. A villager who’ll reveal some local gossip, a hunter chasing a fox, a clifftop with a beautiful view; all simple events that don’t have any real impact on your journey but ones which add more depth to your adventure.

    This partly explains why I’ve always been keen to give Sea of Thieves a go, even though it’s taken me over two years to get around to doing it. I can’t deny that my fondness for the Monkey Island series has helped too: there’s just something about swashbuckling characters who are out to seek their fortune which is attractive. The blue waves, sandy white shores, swaying foliage and shadowy caves of Rare’s 2018 release always appeared as though they were hiding plenty of secrets and buried treasure.

    So why such a long delay? Well, as I’ve written before, I’ve never been all that keen on competitive titles. Long workdays, family commitments and adult responsibilities mean I don’t have enough time – or the desire – to improve my skills to an adequate level to be able to compete. The lockdown may have given a lot of us more time to play video games but in my ‘normal’ life, it seems pointless spending the few free hours I have being slated by my teammates for not being good enough.

    But when friend-of-the-blog Phil offered to give me an overview, I gratefully accepted. Here was my chance to finally try out Sea of Thieves without being made to feel completely useless by a group of strangers online and I knew he’d be patient with my lack of hand-eye coordination. In preparation for our session, I created a character (a blonde-haired pirate in honour of Guybrush Threepwood) and worked my way through the short tutorial, trying to remember the buttons so I wouldn’t let our small team down. So far, so good.

    In fact, the Maiden Voyage section captured exactly what I thought the game would be like in my head. You awake on a dessert island and are greeted by the ghost of the Pirate Lord who kindly guides you through the controls. You’re given the opportunity to explore after finishing with him and this was exactly what I wanted: beautiful beaches, tranquil waterfalls, abandoned caves, secrets notes and the promise of treasure. If the rest of the title was like this, I immediately knew it was going to be one I enjoyed.

    And for the first hour, it was. Phil showed me where the Mysterious Stranger was so I could find out more about the three Trading Companies; where the Gold Hoarders were located so I could collect our first voyage from them; and how to loot barrels for food and cannon balls. Less usefully, he also showed me how to drink enough grog to make your character throw up – and then how to catch the vomit in a bucket and throw it over your teammates (that’s just his sense of humour). After spending a short time at the Outpost, it was time to hit the seas.

    I’ll admit, he thankfully did most of the work while we sailed but I tried to help where I could and not get in the way. I could see here why playing with a team was beneficial because there were several jobs to take care of at once, including steering the ship and angling the sails. We made it to the spot marked on our map and finally set out to find some treasure on a small island – after I was momentary distracted by how cute the snakes were and became sidetracked with chasing a pig along the beach.

    The good news was that we eventually managed to find what we were looking for. The bad news is that we also found other players.

    Before we could even make it to our ship with our loot, we were ambushed by a team of four others. Obviously I’d predicted this because Sea of Thieves is a competitive multiplayer; but what I didn’t expect was just how relentless this group would be. They kept knocking me down repeatedly and were waiting for me every time I respawned. They even ignored our white flag once we’d raised it and after my fifth death in a row, I gave up trying to defend myself or attack them back. Was this supposed to be fun?

    Sea of Thieves, video games, sea, beach, island, ships, pirates

    I was aware we’d eventually end up in battles with other players. But I hadn’t expected it to happen so quickly, and I was hoping I would have been given more time to prepare for it. The initial enjoyment of sailing in our boat, discovering dessert islands and even being crushed by a massive Kraken eventually sunk below the waves, along with my desire to continue playing. That was the one and only time I played Sea of Thieves; I’ve now uninstalled it from our Xbox One and I’m sure I’ll ever bother returning to it.

    Don’t get wrong: I completely understand that the cause of my disappointment with the game was me. I’d been focusing on the exploration elements I’d been attracted to and not what the title fundamentally was – an online action-adventure multiplayer where participants strive to become a Pirate Legend. When it became apparent that what I was searching for here wouldn’t be delivered in the way I wanted it to be, and the gameplay was going to be far more competitive than I could ever get into, I couldn’t help but feel short-changed.

    I spoke to Phil about this the following day and he mentioned a thread on the Sea of Thieves forum, where someone had posted a suggestion for a peaceful mode for ‘people who just want to complete voyages and not be bothered by other pirates’. I checked it out for myself and was surprised by how many negative responses they’d received. Comments such as ‘I’m pretty sure it says in the name SEA OF THIEVES not sea of peace’ were not only grammatically incorrect, but not very respectful.

    I don’t get it. Why would certain players feel so hostile towards the implementation of a new mode which didn’t change anything about the competitive aspect they enjoyed, but had the benefit of welcoming different kinds of players into the community? Rare would expand their customer-base as a result and could potentially use the extra profit earned to implement further improvements to the game, and surely that’s a win-win situation for everybody? If being a pirate means I must deal with scallywags like the people on that forum, it doesn’t seem so appealing any longer.

    Have you ever wanted to play a game in a way other than it’s been designed? And how do you feel about exploration or non-competitive modes in new releases? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

    Black Book: facing your demons

    Is there a standard mechanic used in video games that you just can’t seem to gel with? Maybe it’s tricky timed jumps in platformers, pixel-hunting and in point-and-clicks or having to stay behind cover in shooters (I’m speaking for my other-half here).

    As I’ve written before, it’s turn-based combat which does it for me. It just doesn’t feel representative of a real fight: if you’re confronted with a huge monster, you’re not going to politely wait while it considers its options and then takes its turn to strike. This says an awful lot about my personality and it’s obvious I don’t have the patience required for the genre. I’d much rather run into the battle with a scream and swords raised, and hopefully come out victorious. No guts, no glory as they say.

    So why on earth did I decide to back Black Book on Kickstarter last week? Morteshka’s project is being advertised as ‘an adventure game with deck-building turn-based combat’ so you’d think I would have run away screaming. The truth is that I’ve had this one on my Steam wishlist since it appeared in my recommendations at the beginning of the year and when I found out about the crowdfunding campaign, I headed over become a backer and cuoldn’t wait to try the prologue.

    This game tells the story of a young girl named Vasilisa, destined to become a witch and left heartbroken when her beloved dies in mysterious circumstances. She is given the Black Book, an ancient artefact which is said to be powerful enough to grant any wish to the person who is able to unlock its seven seals, and sets out on a quest to bring him back to her. Her journey will see her face the destructive influence of dark magic: will she surrender to its forces and become a lost sorceress or will she atone for selling her soul?

    The prologue begins as Vasilisa becomes initiated and prepares to fight her first shadowy demon. She must choose three cards from the Black Book during each round (at least, it’s this number at the start of a playthrough) and use them to cast both defensive and offensive spells against her foe. The cards consist of two suits called Orders and Keys, and it’s necessary to select the correct amount from each for your turn to drive your opponent’s health down to zero while protecting yourself.

    You can get a feel for the enemy’s intentions by checking out the symbols displayed over their head. This enables you to think strategically about your actions and plan the best spell response. Some cards work better together – for example, I came across one which gave an additional attack point for every other card of the same colour used in that round – and you’ll obtain further spells during the game by completing quests, receiving them as drops from encounters or buying them from the shop.

    Once I’d completed Vasilisa’s initiation, it was time to take on several tasks and help the people around the province of Cherdyn. We banished two demons in Kusheva Village so a family didn’t have to spend the night sleeping on the streets and battled another who tried to ambush us at an Old River Bed. In other locations, it was possible to make a choice upon entering and this affected what happened next; for example, reading a prayer at Kachevo Lake caused two silhouettes to immediately disappear without a fight.

    Black Book features a variety of Northern Slavic mythological creatures and Morteshka say they took extra effort to achieve authenticity in their portrayal. The development team grew up with these folk-tales and remember them fondly, but also took the time to consult with historians and anthropologists to make sure their project’s narrative accurately reflects the beliefs of their ancestors. You can see from the images provided on the Kickstarter page how they used illustrations from old books as reference for their artwork.

    Towards the end of the of prologue, we encountered our biggest challenge yet: a larger foe called the Thirteenth Brother. Thankfully I’d had the foresight to collect as many medicinal herbs as possible in previous locations so we were well prepared. After impressing him with Vasilisa’s knowledge, he asked us to take him into our service and I accepted – but now I’m not sure it was such a good idea. The Steam page advises that you can recruit a flock of demons to do your bidding, but idle creatures will torture you if you don’t find them something to do.

    When we returned home with our rewards of roubles and knowledge points, our grandfather Egor updated us on his research into opening the Black Book. As ‘every single piece has its meaning’ and ‘every seal needs a devil’, it sounds as though many more battles are going to lie ahead for Vasilisa. Will she be able to defeat every enemy that stands in her way? Will be able to stay strong and not succumb to the dark forces of black magic? And most importantly, will she be able to bring her beloved back from the dead?

    Black Book, video game, witch, spell, circle, candles, Vasilisa, old man, Egor, dog, demon, dark, night, forest

    It’s these questions that caused me to become a backer for Black Book. Turn-based combat won’t ever be my favourite mechanic, but I liked how the narrative for this project was darker than a lot of the fantasy stories you usually find in the genre and I’m genuinely intrigued to find out what happens to the protagonist. Forget knights battling against the forces of evil, because I’d much rather spend my time with a young sorceress who’s brave enough to battle demons.

    As my other-half pointed out too, this could be a good game for us to play together in the evenings once we’ve finished work. Having to wait for your turn means there’s no rush to respond and you can take as much time as you need to think about your next move. Maybe it’s time I faced my own demons and finally learned enough patience to see a turn-based title through to its conclusion; who knows, there might even be a stream once the title is released next year.

    The Kickstarter campaign has already far surpassed its £28,916 target and three stretch goals have been unlocked. There are still over two weeks to go before the deadline (at the time of writing) so if Black Book appeals to you, there’s still time to make a pledge. Check out the official website and give Morteshka a follow on Twitter for more details.