My year in review.
It’s a cold January Friday as I type this. I’ve already been for a walk and it’s just a little too cold even for me. But I still managed to get exercise in. I’ve just published my top favorite games of 2015 and I’m feeling exhausted after a very busy month on this website. But I want to do this final year-in-review post to let everyone know what’s coming down the pipeline. There’s good news and bad news in equal measure. So, let’s get to it.
A Paladin Without A Crusade
This has been far and away the best year that I’ve worked on this project of mine. I rebooted the blog at the beginning of this year with two goals in mind. To see if I could do weekly reviews for an entire year and if I would enjoy doing that entire year. I guess the answer is: Yes, I can and Yes, I do. With the exception of October where my job took me away from being able to write reviews for a couple of weeks, I managed to publish a review every week this year. I have never done that in the history of this blog. I even launched a new GOG format. Even more significant, I wrote four full blog reviews back to back last month and I think they turned out great. My YouTube channel suffered this year but considering I did less work on it, I’m not really surprised. Still, A Paladin Without A Crusade hasn’t ever been better. And things are looking up.
When I started the weekly reviews, I also decided to do weekly updates to make most of my awful reviews less awful. Which means that I’ve actually been doing 2-3 reviews on a weekly basis, all things considered. That has been wrapped a couple of weeks ago. Now, all of my currently published reviews on Steam and WordPress have been updated to the new format. There were a bunch of reviews that got pulled and are sitting in a Google Document (these include: Miasmata, Beta review of StarCraft II, Anomaly Warzone Earth, Psychonauts, Shank and more). They may be published as entirely new reviews in the future, if I decide to do them. And I expect at least a few of them will return. There’s also updating my review of Tribes Ascend that I need to get around to. I didn’t pull the original review on it because I just did way too much work on it to do that. And it’ll encourage me to release a massively updated review in the future. Barring any grievous mistakes or errors in previous reviews, I’m not doing anymore updates. I’m done and I want to move on, focus everything on new games. I don’t regret taking this taxing journey though, even if it was way more work than I thought it would be.
What about next year?
Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way. Since I’m no longer doing updated reviews, I’m going to move System Shock 2 (and future stream series) to being released on Wednesdays. This is mostly to drive more attention towards them and to free up Sundays. Sundays are now going to be about either finishing up reviews or publishing the new official series: A Paladin’s Screenshots. This was previously titled A Paladin. Beauty in Videogames Via Screenshots. I like doing this and I’ve mostly taken a break from it to finish up the year on a high note. The series will probably be weekly or bi-weekly, it depends on how many screenshots I take and how much time I want to devote to it. My random blog posts that I’ve been doing up until this month will continue being posted at random times. There is a possibility of adding another series next year but for now, I’m not really planning anything.
So, what about reviews? I’m quickly running into a problem. On average, I finish about 50 games every year. I’ve been tracking how many I complete via Steam & GOG since 2012 (though I don’t count many GOG games since a lot of them are older titles) and it’s been consistently 50. Of those 50 that get marked “completed”, only about 2/3rds of them could potentially be reviewed. I sometimes pick up games that I find out that I have little to no interest in covering or playing. So, doing weekly reviews this year is probably going to be difficult. And I’m running out of titles that I feel comfortable with talking about without doing a refresher on them. Additionally, I think the system I’ve setup to write reviews is great (and I’m going to make it better for next year) but it would be nice to have more flexibility in time to do them. Which a weekly release doesn’t give me that. So, I’m changing to a bi-weekly release schedule. That doesn’t limit me to two reviews a month but that’s the minimum I’m going to set for myself this year. This should give me more time to work on reviews and on my YouTube channel’s series as well as prevent complete burn out. I may be overreacting though. I have been doing an average of two to three reviews every week this year and with the update series finished up, I may find myself with more than enough time to do them.
What WILL happen is that I’m taking at least a week off from reviewing games, maybe two this month. I need the time off to rest up. December has been an absolutely insane month and going right back into reviewing isn’t appealing right now. So, I’m going to take the mental time off and let myself enjoy videogames for a couple of weeks. That does mean no review this Saturday and next Saturday, at the very least. Then, back to it!
When I was originally working on this post earlier this month, I had planned to announce that I was shrinking the genre of games I would play and cover. But after doing the lists of this year, I decided I’m not going to. Variety is why I play PC games. I love having a variety to choose from and restricting myself to certain genres wouldn’t work for me. That said, I wouldn’t expect to see many 2D platformers from me this year as I’ve found them tiresome lately. I’m looking forward to taking the A Paladin Review format into 2016. I think there’s a lot of room to improve and make it even better. There’s just so much I want to do. So, here’s to an even better year of A Paladin Without A Crusade.
The top 10 reviews I published based on viewership stats:
I’m basing the Steam numbers on the upvote/downvote as Steam doesn’t actually tell me views. Wordpress does tell me if people are directed to the site from my links I include in each review but I don’t get a lot of traffic from that. Search engines, Google+ and Facebook (a very low 3rd place) continue to be my top three referrers to this website. So, here we go. Top 10 most popular reviews of 2015:
- Metro: Last Light Redux
- Overlord: Raising Hell
- Portal Stories: Mel
- Dust: An Elysian Tail
- Metro 2033 Redux
- The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
- S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat
- Legend of Grimrock 2
- Shattered Haven
So, my thoughts on this list. Overall, I’m really happy to see that STALKER and Metro continue to get views years after I published them. Huniepop is definitely the surprising one on the list. I have no doubt that if I had published the review at the beginning of the year instead of mid-way, it would be the most popular review I published. The Witcher series of reviews has also drawn in quite a few readers and I’m happy to see that. To see Dust at #5 also makes me really happy. Shattered Haven also got a lot of attention though I think that’s down to the lack of coverage that title received. Overall, Reviews have dominated the majority of my website traffic but there are some that managed to get considerable traffic including:
- A Paladin’s Top Worst or Disappointing Games of 2015. (My most popular post of the year)
- A Paladin’s Steam Sale: February 2015 Mystery Midweek Recommendations.
- A Paladin’s GOG Galaxy: Alpha Initial Impressions. I’m Impressed.
- A Paladin: The Beauty of Cities: Skylines in Screenshots.
In conclusion, it’s going to continue to shape the type of content that will come in 2016. More screenshot posts, more technology reviews and such. I’m not sure what I’m going to do about Steam Sales in 2016 because it’s become clear that the days of deep sales are behind us. So, I’m going to contemplate what to do about it.
My Personal Favorite Five Reviews To Make in 2015:
These are simply the top five reviews I had fun making this year, regardless of what I said in them:
- Huniepop: The Review To Doom My Credibility Forever.
- This was a stretch for me and I was a little worried how this would affect my viewership. The concerns seem to be unfounded though I’m not absolutely certain. I had a blast both playing and reviewing this title. The numbers backing me up were encouraging to see. I know there are probably people out there rolling their eyes that a sex game is getting a lot of talk about from me. I don’t care.
- A Paladin’s Review: Dust: An Elysian Tail. A Beautiful Gem That Revitalized My Love of Gaming.
- This was one of my highlights of the year to come back and give Dust the review it deserved. Being able to open up about myself and talk about it’s effect on me was…well…great. This game will always have fond memories for me and I’m glad to see such a great response to this review.
- A Paladin’s Review: Grey Goo. I Review, So That Others May Play Good Games.
- This was a really tough review. Talking about a complex RTS title is even harder than talking about The Witcher series or Metro series combined. A lot of work in this review was just getting the format down right so that it wasn’t too dry or vague. It was tough to nail down the Paladin format and it didn’t help that I had a couple of things working against me: I was starting to feel writing fatigue and I was running out of time to get it done by the end of the year. The writing fatigue is understandable. I was coming to the end of a very long year of reviewing and the end of December where I had published quite a few long posts. But I’m still really happy with how this review turned out and the immediate positive response from readers made it all worthwhile. You have no idea how voting a review helpful on Steam makes my day.
- A Paladin’s Review: The Witcher (1). You Face The Might of The Salamandra! Or Maybe Just A Badly Aging Combat System.
- One of my longest reviews for such an old title. I know some probably think it was completely insane that I put in as much work as I did on The Witcher 1 when the Witcher 3 had just come out. This is another: I don’t care. This is how I operate and I love every second of it. The Witcher 3 will probably get a review, next year after the two expansions have come out. That’s when I prefer to do it anyway and if I take a view hit for it, oh well. The Witcher 1 was special as it was also a title that I replayed sections of the story as well as played the bonus content. It’s begun to shape how the Paladin Review format will be for the next year.
- A Paladin’s Review: Overlord II. Evil Found A Way To Be Fun.
- This was my return to form. When I knew that I had gotten my writing capability back. Everything had just come together for it, even the title was rather inspired, in my opinion. Overlord II was the first full blog review since Metro Last Light and I was overjoyed to be doing it alongside all these other reviews I was doing on a weekly basis. It’s not one of the more popular reviews I’ve written but it was an affirmation that I could do this blog and not completely burn myself out on it.
A Paladin Without A Crusade’s Goals for 2016.
I don’t like doing resolutions but I do like setting achievable goals. It’s what I did last year and I want to do again this year. Last year I set out with one single goal for A Paladin Without A Crusade. Create a review every single week for one year and see if I still enjoyed it. And I did. Now, I’m setting a couple public goals. These will be “easy” to achieve but I still want to achieve them this year and they’re going into Todoist to ensure I get them accomplished.
- Publish 100 Videogame Reviews This Year.
- Considering how close I already am to this goal (83), it’s a bit of a cheating one but I’d like to have 100 reviews under my belt before the next year is out.
- To finally launch the Strategy Series.
- I’ve not forgotten this series. The recent review of Grey Goo was to make sure I didn’t go the entire year without doing a single RTS review. I’ve long considered what I plan to do with this video series and I’ve got several ideas now. All that remains is actually implementing a couple of ideas and seeing what will work.
- Follow at least five more blogs this year.
- They say the best way to improve your craft is to see what others are doing. If you want to make movies, watch other people’s movies. If you want to make videogames, play other developer’s videogames. Etc and so on. I won’t deny that reading some blogs has improved my own format. The best example I can think of is Jim Sterling. I noticed in his reviews that he used a bullet list before his reviews and I decided to take it and put my own spin on it. I’ve also been following Game Wisdom for some time, though it wasn’t with the goal of getting better, I just happened to notice him during my searches through Google+. So, I want to find more bloggers both reviewers and otherwise this year.
- Launch my new Solo Let’s Play series.
- I’ve got a game picked out and everything. I’m just waiting on artwork, I need to sit down and work on the script for the trailer and just work on it.
- Another Co-Op Let’s Play/Stream.
- I’d like to do another one this year and I’m pretty sure I’ll find something that Managarmr and I can play. Or maybe he will. Either way, I’d like to get it done.
Vague hopes for this year: More Strategy Game Reviews. I haven’t done nearly enough of these in 2015 and I’m planning on doing several more in 2016. I don’t have a particular goal when it comes to this though. Another hope: Actually being able to write for this blog and get funded for it. Whether that’s through crowd-funding or ad revenue or something else entirely, I don’t particularly care. This hope is not the main focus of the blog. I do this primarily for my own enjoyment. If I happen to get paid for it, great. Fantastic. Probably won’t ever happen. This blog is a niche within a niche and getting enough people willing to pay even my most basic bills isn’t terribly likely. But it’s something I hope for, once in a while.
Personal Stuff & Depression
There’s some stuff I do want to talk about before I wrap this post up. But first, I just want to say a major Thank You So Very Much for reading my blog this year. Everyone who reads this is very appreciated. It keeps me going and you have no idea how much it’s helped me out. Well, until now.
For the past year…no…more like the past five years I’ve been struggling with depression. There was at least one event that made it worse. My Father’s sudden death by a heart attack. Today marks the 2nd Anniversary of his death. It makes New Years Day something of a…not fun day. I miss him. I even wrote a post in remembrance about him but it never got finished. It’s currently sitting in a draft post here on the site. I dunno if I’ll ever finish it.
I’ve been told I shouldn’t talk about my depression on here. Though I’ll be honest, I don’t remember if I haven’t up to this point. I’m almost certain I have at one point. Anyway, I want to help destroy this stigma of talking about depression publicly. I try to put on a good face but there are days/weeks where it’s near impossible. And being completely quiet about it makes it worse. This blog has really helped with my depression this year. It gives me something I can do on a weekly basis that I know I can accomplish. When faced with a never ending job search and other struggles, it’s hard to quantify how much of an impact on keeping me going this website has had. Of course, I do not want to make this blog all about it but depression is a part of my life. Not talking about it is….wrong. Yes, I do have a counselor I talk to. And they’ve been very helpful at getting me through this difficult problem. But it’s going to be a long journey dealing with depression and I feel that you should know that I’m suffering from it. I’m seeking assistance and working to overcome it. If it makes at least one person realize that they aren’t alone with depression, that there’s someone out there dealing with it while also being productive, that there’s hope for them, then it makes this all worth it.
I don’t care if this kills my future job prospects. I’ve heard that thrown around in regards to so many different activities to the point that it seems like getting the mail from the mailbox will cost me a job somewhere. I think writing the reviews I have on this website have done their “damage” if there’s any damage to be done. Talking about depression isn’t going to compare. So, I’m going to mention it from time to time, just so you know what’s going on. Probably won’t be regular conversation as I’ve already got someone for that. But, well, you know now. Today I’m actually doing better than I expected, considering the date.
Thank you all for your continued support. I know a lot of this has been patting myself on the back but I need it because I’m apt to make me feel worse about myself. It’s been a crazy, insane year but I’m going to keep giong. So, I wish you a very Happy New Year. Here’s to an awesome 2016!
-Timothy “KingIsaacLinksr” Wetzel, A Paladin Without A Crusade.