Super Smash Bros. Ultimate First Impressions

I know I write mostly about MMOs here, but there is one other game genre that I love as much if not more: platform fighters. I think most people aren’t aware that Super Smash Bros. spawned a genre, but, like anything, they span from kind of bad (Brawlout) to mediocre (Icons: Combat Arena, though I still thought that one had potential if it had just kept going) to great (Rivals of Aether). Really, though, Super Smash Bros. is still the undisputed king. It invented the genre, and while many would say that no subsequent game has recaptured the glory days of Melee (it certainly is the most fun to watch, if not the most fun to play), I am personally always excited for each new release. This is the first game in years that I’ve taken the day off work for (and attended the midnight release for), and I ended up playing it pretty much all day. I unlocked all of the roster in that first weekend, and now, a week in, I feel like I have a pretty good handle on the unique things about this game.

The biggest change for me in this iteration has been the new physics. Sure, every release messes with the physics, but I think it’s safe to say that Ultimate has had the biggest changes yet. It does this weird thing where characters fly away fast at first, then slow down. As a long time player (and just as a casual observer how physics works in the real world), it really messes with my head sometimes. I’ve been reading comments from players since the earliest demos about how you think for sure that hit killed, but actually your opponent stalled out off screen and managed to get back to stage, and I can now confirm that this is true. The idea is to keep people from being comboed and juggled too much, giving them more control over their own fate, and making player work more for their kills. I haven’t decided yet if I like that. Stringing together combos is one of the things that makes fighters, especially platform fighters, look and feel good when played well. It’s not like you can’t combo things, it’s just very different, especially at high percent. Then again, it’s better than metaknight just pushing you off the top every thirty seconds.

The other exciting thing about a new game release is the addition of new characters and tweaks to old ones. Nintendo traditionally doesn’t believe in supporting games over the long haul, so once those first few DLCs and updates have dried up, the game balance is pretty much set for the next few years–a far cry from what I’m used to in MMOs, with their constant poking and prodding at classes. In terms of new characters, I’ve had a lot of fun playing Ridley, who has been a long-requested character that many (myself included) thought would never be playable. I’m not really sure he’s tournament viable or anything, but that doesn’t stop him from being a lot of fun to mess around with. That tail stab move is devastating if it hits… the operative word being “if.” It’s like Jigglypuff’s rest, but even harder to hit with. I’ve also been spending a lot of time playing Chrom. The Marth-like characters have always been fun, but there’s something about his balance of power and agility that is refreshing. His recovery is a little wonky, but it can be used as a sacrificial KO, so there’s that. The two Castlevania characters are also interesting. I’m still learning how to best use their weird long, narrow chain-whip hitboxes, but I think with some practice they could be really good. I gravitate toward Richter’s longer smash attacks rather than Simon’s longer specials, but it could go either way.

As far as tweaks to older characters, I’ve been a Link fan since ’99, so I’m very happy with the changes he’s gotten this time around. He is much faster, and that remote bomb has some great potential. I also like what they’ve done to Sonic. He was one of those characters that I liked in Brawl and didn’t like in Smash 4, and I’ve had a hard time putting my finger on why. It’s the same character and moveset, but sometimes small tweaks make me not like a character, even if he was ranked higher by the pros in Smash 4. Ultimate’s Sonic seems like a nice compromise. Shulk has also gotten some nice tweaks. When Smash 4 first came out, I thought he could have been a really good character, with great range and good aerials, but in the end he was just kind of mediocre, and his self-buff Monado Arts system was unwieldy. They’ve made some nice improvements to him in Ultimate, including making those buffs more friendly, so I’ll definitely be giving him another shot. He still might be more complicated than he’s worth, though. I’m also happy that Cloud and Bayonetta got some nerfs. It always bothered me that they threw these two characters in the last round of DLCs and they immediately jumped to the top tier. They’re not unplayable or anything, just not overpowered like they were before, which is all I ask.

The biggest disappointment is Ultimate’s online play. Lag is nothing new, mainly because players don’t realize wifi, even with a strong signal, is the culprit (and it has been handled better by other platform fighters, but that’s a discussion that’s more technical than you’re probably interested in), but the worst part is that there isn’t really a 1v1 option. Nintendo has never understood that, while Smash is a nice enough 4+ player party game, it really shines in 1v1. Previous iterations allowed players to pick from 1v1 or free-for-all. This game lets you set “preferred” rules, but doesn’t guarantee you that you’ll get anything close. My preferred ruleset is 1v1 with a 7 minute time limit, no items, any stage type, but I’d say that easily two thirds of my matches have been 4 player free-for-alls with at least some form of items. More than anything else in this game, I really hope this gets changed in a future update.

But this is, and always has been, mainly a couch multiplayer game, so, as disappointing as it is, bad online play doesn’t take away from the fact that this is shaping up to be my favorite entry in the series. Better balance, new and different physics, the most stages and characters of any game (and more to come!), all in a format that I can play either on the big screen or on the go. I really can’t complain. This will be something I’ll definitely be playing for years to come!


Warframe: Officially a Nintenno Switch Player

It’s official: I’ve made the Switch switch. After dabbling in Warframe on the PC for a couple of years now, I’ve migrated to the Nintendo handheld world. I’ve always been a strongly PC gamer with a Nintendo console on the side for exclusives like Zelda and Smash Bros., but I never thought I’d play anything resembling an MMO, much less a shoooter, on console. Keyboard and mouse just gives you so much more accuracy than a controller, and most days I’d much rather communicate with strangers by typing than voice chat. But, for whatever reason, every time I try to play Warframe on PC, my hands and wrists start to hurt. I think it’s just the finger gymnastics involved in running, sliding, and jumping. I’ve tried remapping the keys to more comfortable positions, but it hasn’t helped. A USB Xbox controller makes things more comfortable, but then we’re back to the loss of accuracy problem. The solution: Switch gyro controls. Yes, I know, I’ve hated on the Wiimote’s motion controls for over a decade now, but playing Splatoon 2 on the Switch Pro Controller with gyro controls on has changed my mind. It’s the next best thing to a keyboard and mouse, because you can use the right thumbstick for course adjustments, and the gyro controls to fine tune your aim. It takes some getting used to, but after a couple of hours it feels pretty natural. I was actually able to beat a boss that was giving me trouble last time I played on PC on the first try!

Can we talk about how good this game looks on Switch? It’s not as good as maxed out settings on PC, but a few years ago I would never have believed Nintendo could squeeze this kind of graphical fidelity into a handheld tablet form factor. Next time someone claims that the Switch has the same hardware as the Wii/Wii U, I’m going to show them this game. Sure, it’s not 1080p@60fps, but I’ve never really been able to tell that difference from my couch. I saw some minor FPS drops on particularly hectic missions, but nothing game breaking (and I’m told these can be improved by dialing back the settings if you find them particularly troubling). It’s really impressive!

While the game is, sadly, not crossplay with the PC, Digital Extremes was kind enough to allow PC players to copy their PC accounts to the Switch, as they did when the XBOne/PS4 versions came out a while back. That’s really nice, because it would be sad to lose out on the items and gear I’ve spent time farming for (or gotten from Twitch). The only thing that didn’t transfer was the cash shop currency platinum, so I used up my platinum buying the Octavia ‘frame and some extra slots before I transferred. This techno bard-style class is one of the things that made me pay attention to this game; I actually thought Warframe was just a lobby shooter in the vein of Overwatch when I first heard about it, but for some reason I read an article on the launch of Octavia and my interest was piqued. I love bards in any form, so I’m looking forward to learning to play this one.

Will Warframe ever become my main not-quite-an-MMO? No, but it has replaced Marvel Heroes (which shut down 1 year ago today, RIP) as a mindless, casual side game that allows me to grind for lots of fun stuff without having to spend a penny (unless I want to look cool). The Switch version has made it a lot more accessible to me, not only because I can play it portably, but also because its control scheme is easier. I’m looking forward to the new open world Fortuna zone coming to Switch. I spent a little bit of time in it on PC and thought it was really cool (no pun intended) and made the game feel a lot more MMOish and less like the single player/co-op game that it launched as.

LotRO: Warden For The Long Haul

I’ve come to a decision: I’m going to see this Warden to 50. Sure, I decided that a while ago, but this time I mean it. Syp over at Bio Break tempted me with his post about how he’s loving the minstrel. I miss healing, and the bard motif is just so cool, and while I had a decently high level one at one point, it’s been years and I’ve always wanted to get back to it some day. Ironically, the very next week, he made another post talking about how he had been tempted to switch away from minstrel and resisted, and I took it as a sign that I should do the same. The grass is always greener in someone else’s class, and Warden is just too fun and too unique to pass up. Plus I’m making great progress. Gambit combos are becoming second nature, like a rotation in any other class really. It’s almost easier because there really aren’t that many buttons involved, you just have to press the same ones a lot.

I’ve also gotten serious about doing deeds for the first time. Deeds are always one of those things I plan on going back for once I’m overleveled and can breeze through quickly. And then when I’m overleveled the prospect of killing a few hundred neeker-breekers for a small percent passive doesn’t sound very appealing. But those small percents add up, so I’m taking some time off from leveling to go back through the Shire and finish delivering letters, running pies, touring ruins, and slaying wolves. It also gives me a chance to go back and get some low-level wood to level up woodworker, which I just picked up. I started out as a cook, because, well, what hobbit would go on an adventure without sixty coney pies in her bag? It’s nice to be able to craft my own buffs, especially given the slow health regen speed LotRO has, but I decided that I could just as easily do that on a character who I’m not actively playing, since you can grow your own crops at any field. I realized that, if I picked up woodworker, I could craft my own spears, javelins, and shields, and gathering wood requires exploration. So I ended up making use of that minstrel after all, as my new cook who never leaves Ered Luin, whereas my warden had all of her memories of cooking and farming erased and replaced with the ability to make sticks pointier (video games are weird).

I’m still loving the Legendary server! I do, however, notice I’m starting to fall behind the pack. After I finish up deeds in the Shire, I’ll be moving on to the Old Forest (which looks amazing now!) and probably not quite level 20, which, objectively, isn’t a whole lot of progress. I had a busy weekend and haven’t had as much time to play as I would like, but I’m not worried. This is the point of the progression server; everyone is forced to stop at 50 for the next three and a half months, which is plenty of time. Plus, seeing fewer people on Arnor still means seeing two or three times the people I’d see in Bree-Land on any other server, so I’m still happy.

LotRO: Life On the Legendary Server

I’ve never gotten into the whole progression server thing. I guess you could count Old School RuneScape, which is an odd sort of progression server that progresses in a different direction than the original game did. But other than that, I don’t usually sit around thinking “Man, I miss the days before this game had so many quality of life improvements.” But one game that I’ve always regretted not getting into earlier is Lord of the Rings Online. I’ve always been way behind the pack in LotRO, and its player base isn’t quite big enough that it has a critical mass of people playing low-to-mid levels that I can group with. So I’m basically stuck playing solo until I reach cap, and I always get burned out before I do. That’s why I was excited by the idea of the LotRO Legendary Server. It’s kind of a cheap version of a progression server; all of the current updates, class mechanics, and newer classes/race are there, but expansion levels will be unlocked every four months. I’m pretty happy with that setup, though I do miss skirmishes and all of the easy cosmetics that come with them.

A lot of people are asking what the point of this server is and who this server is for. It’s true, there’s not a ton here you couldn’t just do by just rolling up a new character on a new server and not doing anything to help yourself out. Some people are already doing that. But for me, this is an excuse for a larger community to reroll and progress at the same time. It’s for people like me who didn’t play the game at launch and want to play level 50 or 60 dungeons as they were designed, and not by getting carried by people twice the level it was designed for.

Maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention, but I thought the announcement of the launch date was rather sudden. I was expecting it to pop up late this month or maybe next month, and so when the date was announced less than a week before the launch, I had already spent all of my gaming budget. The logical half of my brain told me that I had already spent my budget on the special edition of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and that I shouldn’t overspend, and, besides, next month I’ll be playing the crap out of the new Super Smash Bros. and probably won’t even make it to cap anyway. The fun half of my brain said that I’ve been wanting an excuse to get back into LotRO, this is probably the last opportunity I’ll have to be part of a community leveling experience in this game. The day may come when I listen to the logical half of my brain when it comes to LotRO, but it is not this day.

So a new hobbit warden named Isnan was born. I’ve always wanted to level a warden, as it seems like a really fun and rewarding class, but it’s so complex that I know I won’t know what I’m doing if I don’t devote myself to it for a while, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I’ve been having a blast so far. There are so many people in The Shire and Bree-Land! I love it! I spent pretty much the whole weekend in Middle-Earth, which is something that I very much needed. I thought the 40% slower pace of questing would be annoying, but at least a low levels, I haven’t really thought about it. I’ve still had plenty of XP to get through the whole Shire without having to farm. Well, I did some actual farming because I’m a cook, but not the “mindlessly killing mobs for XP” kind. I love the flow of the hobbit story, starting out wandering around the shire, delivering mail and pies and keeping bears away from honey. Best of all, the way the game transitions you back to the reality of the threats from Mordor is that a hobbit thinks she’s seen the ghost of Golfimbul (for whom, as everyone knows, the game of golf is named), and in the process of investigating you wind up stopping a legit goblin invasion force. The rangers, of course, are having none of that, and you end up running the message to Strider in Bree and getting mixed up in this whole quest to save the world. I’m amazed all over again with what a great job Turbine/Standing Stone has done adapting the world of The Lord of the Rings to game form and weaving the player into the story without making them Frodo Jr.

I’ll see you around the Arnor server! Feel free to PM Isnan and say hullo!

What Being A Developer Has Taught Me About Games

I’m a professional programmer by day and an indie game developer hobbyist by night. As far as the game dev part goes, I’m really bad at finishing what I start, so, while I get a lot of enjoyment out of the process, I don’t really have a whole lot to show for it, other than games like this one I made for a game jam (a challenge to make a complete game in just 48 hours with a topic that isn’t revealed until you start) this past weekend, and if you could go there and vote honestly about it I’d really appreciate it! I thought I’d share how working on games, even on small, one-to-five person teams, and being a professional programmer working in similarly small teams, has taught me a lot about games and how they are made.

The Last 10% of a Project Takes 90% of the Time
A lot of people seem to think this is a copout–it’s really unintuitive, even to those of us who do this for a living–but it’s absolutely true. The tail end of a project is where all kinds of bugs an inefficiencies rear their ugly heads, and you spend a lot of time refactoring, or changing the internals of the way a piece of code works without changing what it does. It’s unexciting and time consuming. Plus, code can be like playing Jenga; you remove one piece and put it somewhere else, and everything collapses.
That said, this does not excuse crunch practices. Crunch always means your project manager didn’t do his or her job right. There has been a lot of talk going on about this lately, most recently with Rockstar bizarrely bragging about it, unbidden, to the press, then trying to backpedal. A good project manager knows to bake enough time into their estimates for that last 10%. If your people are working 100 hours a week on a game, that’s not something to brag about, that means you’re doing it wrong. There are people out there who are willing to do that just so they can put on their resume that they worked on Read Dead Redemption 2 or whatever, but I can’t imagine a world in which that’s worth it, and most devs who have been there will agree. There are companies out there making games, even AAA games, that don’t force this kind of thing. On top of that, a good many studies have shown that crunch actually reduces productivity in the long run because it introduces a lot of mistakes that would have been caught if your employees weren’t exhausted.

Everything is More Complex Than You Think
I can’t tell you how often I’ve started a project and thought, “This will be easy! I’ll be done in a couple days!” And after a few hours, after realizing all of the complicating factors, it’s more like couple of weeks. Sure, sometimes the reverse happens–we asked ourselves several times this weekend if we were going to finish our game jam entry, and we ended up completing it with several hours to spare–but that seems less common. My point is, give developers some slack when things get delayed. Time estimates are hard.

More Money/More People Not Equal A Better/Faster Project
I remember my Computer Science professor talking in one of our project management classes about a book called the Mythical Man-Month. The idea is that managers (especially non-technical ones) think that if a single developer can get a project done in six months, then two developers can finish it in three months, six developers finish it in one month, and 24 developers finish it in a week. Sadly, that’s just not how it works in software development. Sure, two developers might be able to cut the project time nearly in half, but the more people you add to the project, the more you get bogged down in meetings and communication and conflicting ideas and styles. Sometimes a small, agile team of quality developers who work well together can do way more than a big-budget team that’s bloated and inefficient. I’ve seen this even on two-man teams; at a previous job I came in one morning and found code that I had spent three days writing gutted and rewritten in a different way without explanation just because the other developer had stylistic differences. I think this is a large part of why Wildstar ultimately failed; the communication element just wasn’t there, and it took too much to get fixes and changes in place. This isn’t an easy issue to fix, but it’s a huge one!

Be Nice To Devs
Generally, the things you don’t like about a game aren’t the individual developer’s fault (or at least not just their fault), and the things that are actually broken will get fixed faster if you’re nice than if you’re a jerk (mainly because it causes stress which lowers productivity, but sometimes we just bump things down on the priory list because the affected user was a jerk).

What Game Devs Accomplish Is Really Impressive
Knowing what goes into just the small games I’ve made has given me a deeper appreciation for what professional game devs put into their games. I can’t even get two computers talking to each other over the network right, I can only imagine trying to get thousands of computers talking to one server and staying in sync. And it’s not just developers; there are musicians, sound designers, voice actors, graphical artists (both 2D and 3D), mocap actors, testers (not as fun as you’d think), network engineers, database administrators, and a whole list of other jobs I can’t do that go into making a professional game. And everything has to fall into place at once, just so Stuga can remind you how long she’s been looking for you.

WoW Really Needs To Work On First Impressions

I recently pondered if World of Warcraft was worth starting in 2018. I even sent a cut-down version of that post to the Massively OP podcast to get their opinions on the subject. Finally, I decided to give the free-up-to-20 experience a try. I had done this a while back and wasn’t impressed, but it was with a friend who was rather disenchanted with everything that had changed in his absence, so maybe I just needed to get to know the game on my own?

Sadly, my original impression was confirmed; the low-level game is just kind of terrible. I chose the monk because it sounded interesting to me (and it’s one of the newer classes, so probably a more refined design, right?), I’m dumped into the world with a single skill on my bar, which is a Chi builder that costs slowly-regenerating power to use–that’s fine, I’m comfortable with builder-and-spender class designs–but I’m basically just stuck auto-attacking until my power bar refills, when I can do another low-damage builder skill with nothing to spend it on. That’s… probably just for level 1, right? I’ll get enough skills for a basic rotation in the next couple of levels? Well, at level 3 I get my first spender. Still not enough to build and spend without auto attacking in between. Well, surely this will be remedied soon. So at level five I get… a roll? It literally just makes you roll forward, dealing no damage, and it doesn’t even stop at a target for use as a gap closer. I’m sure there are times when this comes in handy. I can’t imagine what they are, other than getting places slightly faster before I get a mount, but I’m sure it has a purpose. But why in in world (of Warcraft) wouldn’t you wait to give me this until I actually have enough attack skills that I’m not standing around waiting on resource blocks? When I hit level 8 and was handed, not another builder, not another damage spender, but a heal skill, I ragequit.

I don’t see a way in which this isn’t simply poor low-level class design. This is Blizzard for goodness sake! I thought they invented polish and accessibility in MMOs. I mean, they did invent polish and accessibility in MMOs; I played just enough EverQuest and other older MMOs to know that. But this is 2018 and in every MMO I jump into, I have three to four skills on my hotbar by the time I’m level 3, and I don’t have to feel like I’m doing RuneScape combat. I can’t fathom, with all of the class revisions they’ve done over the years–after all is the post-Cataclysm revised leveling experience–that they haven’t made this better. Are they just trying to discourage alting by making the early game experience so bad you only want to do it once? I can’t imagine why a game would do this; alting makes for better players who stick around longer.

My friends who play WoW assure me that this is a good thing. That by the time you get a new skill you really know that last skill. But I feel like I learned all I needed to know by reading the tooltip. Yeah, if they dumped three or four hotbars full of stuff on me all at once (as I’m sure they do when you level boost), it would be overwhelming. But I think I could handle two or three more at the very beginning to get a decent feel for how the class plays. I don’t mean to mock them too much; their main complaint with Guild Wars 2 was that, once you get your relevant slot skills, leveling adds nothing new to your character until you start working on elite specs (and if you don’t like the elite specs for your class, you’re pretty much done progressing). I think that’s a legitimate complaint. But there’s a middle ground that seems to be missing in WoW.

I’m going to try rolling another class–probably a druid or a shaman–and stick with it for another week or so, but if those classes have equally terrible early games, Blizzard probably still isn’t getting any of my money on this one. I really don’t want to be this negative about a game that is so influential and widely beloved, and, going in, I honestly didn’t expect to be. I’m quite sure the game gets worlds better if I just stick with it just a bit longer, but I can muster no motivation to do so.
You really need to work on your first impressions, Blizzard.

A Look Back At Five Years Of Occasional Hero

I’ve now been running this blog for over five years. I had to go back and verify that I didn’t read that wrong when it showed up on my calendar the other day. It’s funny, all through school, I always said that I didn’t like writing. Then, my senior year of college I took a class in blogging (it was a Comm Arts class called “Electronic Publishing,” but really it should have been called “start a WordPress blog and read about basic HTML without actually using it”) because it sounded like easy credits for a senior Computer Science major. We were assigned to start a WordPress site and write about something that interested us twice a week, so I started a site where I reviewed retro games and talked about their impact on modern games. That site didn’t continue after the class was over, but it taught me that there was a form of writing that I actually kind of liked! After things settled down a little after college, I started this blog to talk about MMOs as a part of the Newbie Blogger Initiative under the terribly awkward and wordy title “Part Time Core Gamer” (I couldn’t think of anything catchy, so I guess I went for descriptive?). I started out with the goal of posting twice a week, but that was quickly adjusted to once a week, with permission not to guilt myself if I didn’t meet that expectation. I think that’s why I’ve lasted this long; it’s not an obligation for me. If I can’t think of anything to write about, I just don’t. It’s not a great way to grow a super popular, high traffic blog, but I’m not sure that’s really an attainable goal in 2018. This is just a side hobby of my gaming hobby.

A lot has happened in the last five years. For instance, my blog is the first place where I referred to this girl that I was getting to know as my “girlfriend” even though we hadn’t made it “official” or anything, mainly because “girlfriend” was easier to write than “this cute girl I know that I’ve been hanging out with that might be my girlfriend? I think? I mean, if she wants to?” I had my blog linked on my personal Facebook at the time, and she stumbled upon it and realized that I was talking about her. She must have been ok with it, because she is now my wife. While life hasn’t always been great over the last five years, she always is. I’m also proud of the fact that she has gone from rarely playing games on her PlayStation when we first met to now playing Elder Scrolls Online more than I do, with way higher crafting levels.

I’ve come and gone to a lot of different MMOs in five years. Flipping casually through my posts, I went from being lukewarm about Guild Wars 2 to it being my main game for several years, now back to being a little lukewarm on it again. More recently, I’ve gone from being lukewarm on Elder Scrolls Online to it being my main game, so take that as you will. I posted a lot about Marvel Heroes and WildStar, and more recently about how we lost them. I’ve posted intermittently about Star Wars The Old Republic and Lord of the Rings Online and Star Trek Online and a number of other titles, and I’d really like to go back to those games, but not right now. I just hope they’re all there when I want to go back.

It seems like, more often than not, the posts I’m really proud of don’t get a ton of hits, but the posts I just threw together on my lunch break blow up. I know I’m not alone in this. The post that got my all-time most hits was “Philosophy Shifts in Heart of Thorns, And Why They’re Wrong” from January of 2016. It got over six times as many hits as its followup, “Things Heart of Thorns Is Doing Right.” That should tell me something about how negativity sells, but I don’t want to be that kind of blogger. To be fair, the “Why They’re Wrong” post was featured as a headline on Massively Overpowered‘s Global Chat column before the “Doing Right” part was posted. Also, thanks for the signal boosts over the years, MOP! You definitely get more eyes on my site than anything else. After Guild Wars 2, my Lord of the Rings Online posts seem to be most popular. I try not to be too metric-driven, because, again, this blog is for fun, but it’s interesting to look at from time to time.

In closing, thank you to everyone who reads my blog. There aren’t thousands or even hundreds of you, but thanks to those who do. Thank you to everyone who leaves a comment. It means a lot to me, even if I’m bad at responding. Thanks to my fellow bloggers for giving me things to read and think about. Thanks to the people who run projects like Newbie Blogger Initiative that gave me the push to start blogging again five years ago and Blaugust that, while I don’t really participate, gives me a lot of posts to read and encouragement to keep going.
Blogging may be considered a “dead” medium, quickly being replaced by podcasts and YouTube and Twitch, but I’m glad that there are still those of us who prefer it, and a community of people who want to nurture it. I don’t know if I’ll still be blogging in another five years, but I really didn’t know I’d be blogging this long.