How to Track and Attack the Gaming Backlog

Backlog, Wing Commander PrivateerI realized a while ago that I was losing track. Steam sales and Humble Bundles were so enticing due to the low costs, but they were adding into a collection of games that was quickly getting out of control. Feeding the backlog, but not doing anything to reduce it’s size. I was restarting games I had taken breaks from, which had caused me to forget my progress, so starting over seemed sensible. It wasn’t helping. My spending, though on sales and bundles, was excessive, and I wasn’t making progress. I had to change.

So, I did. To start, I made a conscious effort to start keeping track of everything I was doing in the gaming space, from the minor to the major, and to analyze the data later. Keep track of my backlog across every website and physical copy, and keep meticulous notes of my gaming habits. This was about 2 years ago, and I highly recommend it for everyone. I’ve curbed my spending, become more invested in the games I play with my limited time, can hop back into the games I’ve put aside easily, and finish games I’ve had on my list for years. Here’s how I did it.

Secret World Legends, Gatekeeper, Backlog

The Gatekeeper fears the size of his own Backlog.

Step 1: Create A Literal Backlog

The first step is knowing exactly what you’re up against. You should know the height of the mountain before you start to climb. Though there are some websites that are specifically designed to help with this, like Grouvee and The Backloggery, I opted to take a more manual route and just use Excel Online. I consider myself fairly skilled in the use of Excel, so using it’s online version seemed like a good start. Google Sheets would also work well, just try to use a method that is easily accessible.

Step 2: Fill Out Your Backlog

Once you have a spreadsheet ready, take every game you own and enter it. This would include every physical media game you own on all systems, PC and console, and every website you own games on. For me this includes my Playstation 2, Wii, physical games on CD and DVD, Zip files, and from websites like Amazon, BattleNet, Gamestop, Humble, GOG, Origin, Rockstar, RSI, Steam, Telltale, Twitch, UPlay, and the Windows Store. With more online options to download games from, it’s easy to forget where your games are located.

Break your columns up into Game Title, what Platform the game is found on, what Series the game is a part of, Release Year, if the game has an Ending, if you’ve Beaten or are done playing the game entirely, if you would still Play it, if you would Highly Consider playing it over others, a Counter column, and general Notes field.

Take a look at my own backlog for an example. As it stands, I own 775 games, 651 of which are beatable, 80 of which I’ve actually beaten, with 665 that I would still consider playing, and 98 highly considered. This is my backlog mountain. You can see why I had to take drastic steps.

Star Trek Online, Klingons, Backlog

The Klingons would attack their backlogs without mercy.

Step 3: Attack That Backlog

If you’re anything like me, with all the games you may own now staring back at you, your will to add to it may be quite diminished at this point. Would you really feel compelled to pay $60 for one game if you have 665 unplayed games staring back at you? I mean, for real.

The reason why you should add a “Play” column as well as a “Top Play” column is to make the decision of what game to play easier. Because you’ve paid for or received any of these games as gifts, you owe it to yourself to at least try them and not let that money go to waste. My philosophy is that even if you give it a try and quickly decide that the game isn’t for you, then at least you tried and you shouldn’t feel bad crossing it off your list.

To that effect, sometimes you should let fate decide what you play. Using the total “Play” and “Top Play” numbers, you can use a site like Random.org to make the choice for you. For example, based on my backlog I’d have it choose a number from 1 to 665 (my “To Play”). In this instance, it just picked number 85, which on my list is Company of Heroes, a RTS released in 2006 with a WWII setting I own through Steam. Would I ever just go “Hey, I should boot up Company of Heroes!” No, probably never. But at some point I acquired the game, through a Humble Bundle or a Steam sale, and now it’s fresh again in my mind. Maybe I will go give it a shot.

You don’t have to agree with the first RNG picked, of course. You’re in control, you can use RNG to pick a top 3 or 5 and pick one from that list, or just pick another one entirely. The overall goal, though, is to cross them off the list. Plus, you never know when RNG might pick a game you surprisingly find yourself really enjoying.

Euro Truck Simulator 2, Backlog

If you had told me I’d be a big fan of Euro Truck Simulator 2, I’d have called you a liar.

Step 4: Track Your Individual Progress

I know spreadsheets tend to have a bad rap and they’re seen as “taking the fun” out of games to use them. Not every game needs to be “Accounting: The Game”, I get that. But a general direction you were heading in the game helps to give you a point of reference. Like a method of using Champion Points in Elder Scrolls Online, or general quests to be done in a DOS game, a list of drops needed to craft armor upgrades in Guild Wars 1, or where to get trait upgrades in Lord of the Rings Online.

Having a quick list handy of what you were up to from times you’ve played before gives you a starting point when you come back, making it easier to jump back into where you were. This helps to alleviate the overwhelming stress and curb the desire to start over from scratch. If you’re not always starting over, you’re more apt to complete games and, most importantly, cross them off your list.

Step 5: Create A Daily Log

At the beginning of 2017 I started keeping a daily log of what game I was playing, what progress I made, and any other gaming-related metrics that I might find helpful. With days of the year on the Y axis and Game Titles on the X access, the list is simply calculating what days I played, and what games. If I felt I made some progress in the game, I would add a 1 in that game’s column. Since I also stream my play of Twitch, I added that as a column. Same for Podcasting, and Blogging/Writing.

Excessive? Maybe. But more data isn’t hurting anything, and helps you to better understand your own patterns. The MMO I’ve played the most? Secret World Legends. Since the beginning of 2017 I’ve streamed my play 236 nights, and podcasted 66 nights. This is only my 10th night writing, but my 5th time this month, which shows you the push that Blaugust Reborn has given me to take it up again. Most played game in April of 2017? Mass Effect 1, which took me a total of 15 nights to beat. What game did I play on August 31st of 2017? Guild Wars 1, I hit level 16.

Backlog, Icewind Dale

Using RNG might get you to play your classics, too. I mean, just *look* at this gorgeous artwork.

So does all this help? Do I feel like I’m better off than I was 2 years ago? Absolutely. I haven’t stopped buying games, though. In fact, GOG right now has The Witcher 3: Game of the Year edition at $20! How could anyone pass that up? But I have dropped my spending significantly, as well as crossing those games off. Realistically, I don’t think I’ll ever catch up. My backlog is just too big, but I at least have a handle on it, and I feel a lot more in control. Beating the backlog is the real game, so you may as well be as well equipped as you can be.

Good hunting, all.

// Ocho

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Too Many Options

Currently I’m going through my gaming transition, as I usually do around this time of year. As soon as Spring hits, I crave the outdoors. My gaming time and interest tends to take a nosedive, and then come Fall, like clockwork, my want to play games increases again. I find myself usually returning to games around the time that all MMOs are starting to celebrate their Halloween shenanigans.

I may be a bit early, but a foot injury has sidelined me a good amount this season, and so my Ultimate playing for the season is essentially over. My injury will hopefully heal over the winter and I’ll be good to come back into next season’s Ultimate ready to go. Still won’t stop playing Disc Golf, though. I’ll try to keep that up until the ground is covered in deep piles of snow, like last season. I am hoping to be a little more active this winter to stave off the holiday weight gain and I’m hoping to get into a friend’s softball league next Spring. We’ll see how that goes, “best laid plans” and whatnot. <ahem> Sorry about that tangent…

But gaming wise, my mind is filled with cravings to play all kinds of different games and it’s causing me a bit of indecision. Here’s a quick list of the ones that are currently jockeying for position:

Guild Wars 2

Vines and plants. Eating salad feels like revenge against these things now.

 

Guild Wars 2

I recently finished the main story and have started in on Season 2. I really love how they’ve set up Season 2 so that it can be played at an easier pace, and how they’ve integrated it into the world. We have instancing in these games for a reason, and that reason is story. Keep it up, ANet! I’ve finished all the story up to Dragon’s Reach: Part 2, and am really liking the story. They’ve really kicked the story up a notch on this one, although making your character the main figurehead and putting all kinds of words into our mouths, it’s offset by the fantastic characterization of your companions and surrounding characters.

Now I just have to… figure out what else there is to do at level 80. Having done zero research about GW2’s “endgame”, the top level items/weapons and what it would take to get them, it’s a bit of a mystery… they don’t make it that obvious in-game. But these boss battles are something else. If I can get through one and not die 100 times, I’m happy. So maybe a little grinding is in order to get some better or more synced equipment… I’m not a fan of using guides, but I may have to.

Star Trek Online

The next season and the latest expansion Delta Rising are quickly on their way, and the last content I did was against the Voth inside the Solanae Dyson Sphere. Good content, I really enjoyed it, I like how the STO devs are creating content that can’t just be gobbled up and moved on from. They use Reputation grinds, but Rep grinds feel alright for end-game content. My only issue with STO, ironically, is their propensity for long grinds, but I have to come back for Star Trek. I feel compelled. Also, the mountains of zen I have from my Lifetime account don’t hurt (4 years worth of a lifetime sub mixed with a propensity to only buy storage upgrades and costumes).

Since I’ve last played, though, the amount of changes is extensive, and is a hill to come back in. Specifically, the changes in how kit powers work. Knowing STO’s history, it may not be that intuitive. Also, how it looks like they’re handling Tier 6 ships is… interesting. Making them not necessary but obviously more powerful? So… making them necessary?

Rusty Hearts

Love the art style.

Rusty Hearts

As of this post, Rusty Hearts is shutting down in about a week. This makes me sad as it’s the first MMO that I’ve ever played that is shutting down. It won’t be missed by many, but it will be missed by me. I want to give it one final play session before the servers shut down, and I should be able to as my account should still be active.

Old School D&D Games

And I mean OLD SCHOOL. No, really, I’m talking like 24 year old, can buy itself a drink, Champions of Krynn old school. Either that or Neverwinter Nights, or Baldur’s Gate. I remember playing the old school Krynn series a LONG time ago, and I played a bit of NWN and BG, but never completed them or made any headway. I’m in a when-we-can-get-together Pathfinder group, you see, and I completely suck at it, but the D&D bug still bites pretty hard, and I do love me some old school.

Alpha Centauri

I know, Civilization: Beyond Earth is coming out near the end of October. It looks awesome, but it gives that nostalgia hit to play me some Alpha Centauri, Sid Meier’s last attempt at a Civilization game on a world besides Earth. Dealing with other ideologies while at the same time trying not to be horrifically hurt by aliens? Good stuff.

You see, Beyond Earth is coming out a good time. The premise, if it’s anything like Alpha Centauri, is one of living with the planet, not against it. Using methods of living that don’t harm the ecosystem. In AC, if you don’t learn to live with the ecosystem, it will fight back. Hard. Parallels with current day issues? You betcha. Art imitates life, after all.

Neverwinter

Gelatinous Cubes, what jellyfish would be if they were found on land.

Neverwinter Online

I like Neverwinter. It’s a lot of fun, even if it doesn’t hit all the D&D notes that the old school D&D games I mentioned above do. And they just released their latest expansion, Tyranny of Dragons, so… Dragons! Dragons everywhere! As I said, I like Neverwinter, it just never makes the top of my MMOs to play list.

The Sims: Medieval

With the release of Sims 4, the Sims bug is also itching. But for me, I always wanted a little more out of the Sims. It seems like a great base to tell a whole bunch of stories, but stories that don’t just revolve around relationships and remodeling ones bathroom. But there is a great Sims title that does go a lot further… The Sims: Medieval. You play multiple people in the standard fantasy medieval community. Say you decide to play the king/queen and go through their story, then when you next play the blacksmith story, you get the benefits of the world changing from the royal’s story. The caveat is there isn’t much in the way of house-building, but to me the quests more than make up for it.

Guild Wars

Did anyone else feel that wind?

Guild Wars 1

Playing through the story of Guild Wars 2 has made me want to go back in time and play through Guild Wars 1! Prophecies! Factions! Nightfall! Eye of the North! Plus, this would give me the ability to get all the fun Hall of Monuments stuff that I don’t have from not really playing GW1. And with Rusty Hearts closing, it just makes you think that an old game, like GW1, could shut down at any time. All it takes is for ANet to turn around and say “Well, it’s not making us any more money. Shut it off.” and that’s it, it’s done.

Walking Dead: Season 2

As far as my current TV watching, I’ve been into The Walking Dead. I like it, but what made me start watching it was playing through The Walking Dead: Season 1. Amazing. That game is amazing, but I’ve only done a few chapters of Season 2, and I should really finish it up, because I’m sure I’m going to love it.

Those Other Games I Have Half-Finished

Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall, Half-Life, and Gabriel Knight, specifically. I stopped playing all of them for pretty good reasons, but they’re still nagging me being unfinished. I think my want to “explore” in these games is too much and is getting in the way. I don’t like just rushing to the next plot point, but at this rate I’ll never finish anything! Argh!

So I don’t know. What do you think? Maybe I’ll just keep driving my truck. This ore isn’t going to deliver itself, you know…

// Ocho

Euro Truck Simulator 2

On the road again. I can’t wait to get on the road again…

Driving Trucks on the Wrong Side of the Road

2014-08-25_00005

Well, the left side, technically, which is correct, but it took me a few minutes to get use to.

The other day I was looking through Green Man Gaming’s list of 30 Must Have Indie Games, of which I have quite a few already, but found myself inexorably drawn toward Euro Truck Simulator 2. I quickly checked Steam which, thanks to a handy browser extension called Enhanced Steam, I was given a coupon code that allowed me to pick up the game on the cheap. I couldn’t resist.

Marvels of engineering impress the heck out of me. When I was younger, I use to love going to amusement parks and then, in my head, urged to want to build scale models of them. At the time, either I didn’t know of Roller Coaster Tycoon or it hadn’t released yet. Even to this day when I’m on my way home from work and I’m stopped at some local railroad tracks waiting for the train to pass, I get the urge to play a train simulator or something. I usually don’t act on these urges, but who knows. Sometimes the kid in me has free reign.

Euro Truck Simulator 2

Cities are just depots, right? I’m not sure cities have other roads…

The tutorial was an eye opener. Now, in general, I consider myself a good driver, but suddenly making a left hand turn in an enormous vehicle with 30 tons of momentum behind you on the wrong side of the road?!! Whaaaaat?!!! I haven’t even started challenging myself yet, though. Currently, I’m playing on simple video-game-style automatic transmission. You know, ‘W’ goes forward and takes care of gears, ‘S’ is both reverse and brake. But the potential options here remind me of playing those Mech games of old, where you had to memorize scads of key combinations to make stuff happen. It can be as easy as WASD, but as complex as getting your own steering wheel, gear shifts, and pedals and going nuts.

The game starts you out as a basic driver, looking to be hired to run jobs. Cake. Just drive from point A to point B, don’t worry about gas, lodging, tolls, fun management stuff, continuity, etc. Just follow the traffic laws, and you’re golden, an easy  few thousand euros. Do this… for a crazy amount of times more. I’ve only made a few deliveries total, but the next part of the game is starting your own trucking business and for that you need to buy your own truck, which runs at it’s cheapest into the 100k euros. A good simulator won’t be easy, I know, but getting the funds to buy a truck without getting ripped off by the bank on interest fees… that’s going to take a while. Maybe I’ll play once a day or something until I get there.

Euro Truck Simulator 2

Clouds, sun, water, trees… is there much else on the sides of the road?

 

The game feels realistic, though. I’ve found myself cursing at slow drivers and cars cutting me off, missing turns offered by the GPS, and trying to stay relatively around the speed limit, as I do in real life. I’ve become quickly acquainted with the buttons used for the multiple horns. And trying to park this sucker once you reach your destination?! A Steam comment on the first Euro Truck Simulator summed it up nicely…

Saving the world? Easy.
Creating my own civilization and leading it to world domination? Easy.
Catch all Pokémon? Easy.
Make my way through hell? Easy.
Parking a truck backward? Impossible. Great game though.

Euro Truck Simulator 2

Nailed it. In the rain no less.

But I wonder about the side-of-the-road visuals and how much it is really like traveling through the european countryside. Are there really that many fields of sunflowers? Are hot air balloons a regular sight? I need to find where all the good sights are, I guess. So far it’s been a lot of roads, roads, roads, circles, tight turns, and more roads. I’m not even sure what highways these are supposed to be… I think they’re marked when you first get on, but the GPS isn’t telling me, and they really all look similar.

Is Euro Truck Simulator 2 a well put together game? Yes.

… Is it fun? Well… I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt. The fun is found in it’s realism. Because I’m not sure how this truly compares to trucking, I’m not sure I can truly say how “realistic” it is. However, nailing backing the truck up right? That’s a good feeling right there.

// Ocho