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A lot of my initial excitement for the Bears' potential in 2021 has been dampened by a lackluster preseason. It didn't matter whether Andy Dalton was playing quarterback or Justin Fields, the offense struggled to move the ball.

Most of this was due to poor offensive line play. I didn't get to watch the games live, but I looked up as much highlights and play-by-play as I could later in each week, and what I saw showed that all the Bears' quarterbacks were constantly under pressure. There was very little time to stand in the pocket and throw. The running game wasn't particularly dominant either, and the Bears had to endure a lot of three-and-outs.

Dalton looked fine when he had time to throw, but he rarely had time and wasn't able to make things happen while under pressure. Fields seemed to have the better preseason, but this was mostly owing to his ability to get out of the pocket and run for yardage and first downs. He had very little time to throw as well and didn't exactly look spectacular throwing the ball. Though he did make some very nice improvisational plays in the final preseason game against the Titans.

Bears 2021 preseason - Andy Dalton pressure
- photo by Nam Y. Huh, Associated Press
Bears 2021 preseason - Justin Fields pressure
- photo credit unknown
All the Bears QBs had to struggle with constant pressure.
Justin Fields at least has the mobility to get out of the pocket and make something happen.

There is a lot of popular demand to start Fields in the regular season, but I'm not so sure that is a good idea. If this offensive line cannot play better in the regular season, I would worry about the long-term health of Fields. He would likely take a lot of sacks and have to run and expose himself to lots of hits.

A big reason for the offensive line struggles is that the Bears are short at left tackle. Their other big-name draft pick was tackle Teven Jenkins, who may miss most (if not all) of the season after having back surgery in the summer. The Bears were so confident that he's be able to step in and start his first year that they released their previous starting left tackle, Charles Leno Jr.. With Leno (perhaps their best pass blocker last year) gone, and Jenkins out indefinitely, pass blocking is probably the single biggest area of concern.

Teven Jenkins - photo credit BearsWire
Teven Jenkins' injury is straining the O-Line.

Yes, the Bears did win 2 of their 3 preseason games, so perhaps that is something to be optimistic about. The defense played well in 2 of those 3 games, and the offense did do just enough to take and hold a lead. But most of that success was against backups after the first quarter was over.

As far as preseason stand-outs, receiver Rodney Adams and tight end Jasper Horstedd had some exciting and explosive plays. I think Adams will definitely earn himself a position on the team, even if it's in a rotational receiver role.

Honestly, as excited as I am to see Justin Fields leading this team, I do worry that maybe this isn't the best situation for him. Unless the Bears can shore up their offensive line with a free agent signing or two, or a trade for an upgrade at one or both tackle positions, starting Fields might just be setting the poor kid up for failure.

I have tickets to the Bears road game against the Raiders in October. I suspect that Fields will be the starter by that time, especially if the Bears offense under Dalton is as bad at converting third downs as they were in the preseason. But I also worry that if he is starting by that time, that he might not finish the season.

Allegiant Stadium
Photo by Orlando Ramirez, USA Today Sports
I'll be seeing my first ever NFL regular season game in-person when the Bears visit the Raiders in October.
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Saturday, August 28, 2021 11:45 AM

7 tips for surviving Stranded Deep

in Video Gaming | Strategy by MegaBearsFan

Stranded Deep - title

Stranded Deep released on consoles last year after having spend half a decade in early access on Steam. I downloaded it for my PS4 when it was offered as the free monthly game, and had a lot of trouble getting into it. I was very frustrated with how little the game bothers to explain itself, and how much trial-end-error I had to put up with just to learn the basics. However, I did stick with it, and started to warm up to it after several restarts and some time spent on the wiki.

I imagine I'm not the only one checking out this game on consoles, especially since it was free for PSPlus users earlier this summer, so I thought I'd share 7 tips that I wish I'd known when I had started out. Hopefully, I can spare other players a lot of the trial-and-error and frustration that I had to endure, so that you can get to enjoying the game a lot quicker and more fully. I also want to point out that I'm playing the game on a PS4, and I understand that the PC version of the game is a little bit different. The tips that I offer here should also be relevant to PC players, but they are geared towards console players. That being said, here are 7 tips for surviving Stranded Deep:

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Stranded Deep - title

I've been diving into my Steam wishlist and backlog while waiting for this fall's suite of football video games. Stranded Deep is a game that I had on my Steam wishlist for years -- when it first became available through "early access" -- along with games like The Long Dark and The Forest. I don't typically invest in early access games because I don't want the incompleteness of the game to combine with my overly-critical eye and completely sour me to an experience that would likely be positive when the game is finished. This is also the reason that I rarely go back to games that received major overhauls post-release, like No Man's Sky or SimCity (2013) -- I'm already soured on the game, and it's unlikely to win me back.

I never got around to buying Stranded Deep on Steam, even after it left early access which is apparently still in early access on Steam, because the "survival sim" fad had petered out and my own interest in that particular game fizzled out as well.

Survival sims were a huge fad on Steam, but the fad started to fizzle out
long before indie titles like Stranded Deep or The Forest ever saw full releases.

But Stranded Deep showed up as another free game for PSPlus subscribers (along with Control), and I went ahead and downloaded it. Gotta get that $60 per year of value from the subscription somehow. Honestly, I use my PSPlus subscription mostly for the cloud storage. I consider it "game progress insurance" in case my console fails on me. So I rarely play the free games. But I mostly liked Control, so went ahead and gave Stranded Deep a shot too.

Stranded Deep is definitely not as good as Control.

Survival of the wiki-est

I kinda knew I was in for a disappointing experience when I had to pause the game during the tutorial in order to look up how to proceed. My girlfriend also said as much and wondered out loud why I would even continue playing a game that couldn't even do an adequate job of communicating its fundamental mechanics. She said I have much more patience than her, because she would have given up right then and there.

I had troubles right from the start with simple things like operating the inventory and performing some of the early tutorial crafting. The thing that dead-ended my progress and forced me to look online was trying to figure out where to get the leaves to make rope to craft the knife. I thought I would use leaves from trees, but I wasn't sure which trees, nor was I sure how to pull leaves from trees. The game lets me pluck coconuts off of trees, so I thought it would allow the same for plucking leaves off of trees. Nope. So I tried using my stone tool to cut leaves off of palm trees, only to get palm fronds, which cannot be made into rope. Then I started doing laps around the island looking for seaweed or hemp or something. So 2 minutes into the game, and there I was stuck on the tutorial.

I had to go online to find where to get fibrous leaves.

It turns out, the necessary fibrous leaves are harvested from the exactly 2 yucca plants on my starting island, both of which are kind of hidden next to large boulders. Or I could cut the baby palms growing all over the island for small amounts of fibrous leaves. But I didn't think to try this because I didn't have any reason to think that the baby palm fronds would be any different from the adult palm fronds.

This specific tutorial problem could have been fixed by modifying the tutorial objectives to specifically tell the player to harvest fibrous leaves from a yucca or baby palm. More generally though, it would have been helpful if the game could provide a tooltip when the player hovers over certain resources that explains what that resource might be used for. Or have the character speak to himself out loud that "I could probably use the leaves of that yucca to make rope.". The character comments out loud how "disgusting" it is to skin an animal every time I do it (even though the character has been living off of skinned animals for weeks and should be used to it), so the developers were definitely able to implement contextual dialogue. And even if that kind of dialogue is too difficult to implement, an "examine" button (like in old-school survival horror games) could have worked to tell the player in plain text what can be done with any given resource on the island.

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I recently posted a new video to my YouTube channel about my frustrations with the design of Control's "challenging" gameplay. I'm not going to transcribe the entire video here on the blog because most of what is in the video is already in my previous written review of the game.

In summary, the video compares the "tough but fair" design philosophy of From Software's games (most notably, Dark Souls) with the way that difficulty is implemented in Control. Even though I found Control to be a much easier game overall, and I suffered far fewer deaths in Control compared to Dark Souls, I did feel that Control lacked that "tough but fair" feeling that Dark Souls is famous for. Control uses a lot of seemingly cheap tricks to artificially inflate the difficulty of the game. If deliberate, then they are cheap tricks. If not deliberate, then they are faulty game design. I may not have died as often in Control, but the few deaths that I did suffer rarely felt deserved.

The full critique is available on YouTube.

The video also contrasts Control's healing system with that of Doom (2016) and Bloodborne. All three games seem to be trying to encourage fast-paced, aggressive play by rewarding the player with health for relentlessly assailing the enemy. Yet this intent doesn't come through as clearly in Control because the player needs to be close to where the enemy dies in order to pick up the health, but most of Control's action is done at medium or long range. Doom and Bloodborne, however, give health to the player when the player performs melee attacks, ensuring that even if the health is dropped on the ground as a pickup, that the player is always close enough to immediately get it if they need it.

One thing that I neglected to mention in the actual video, but which I want to add here, is that Control also has enemies with hit-scan weapons. Most enemies have machine guns that instantly damage the player if the enemy has line of sight. Attacks are not always projectiles that travel across the arena and which can be dodged, blocked, or otherwise avoided. This means that exposing yourself to crossfire is almost certain death if your health is critical in Control, and it contributes to the player needing to slow things down and play cautiously and defensively, instead of maintaining that fast-paced, aggressive play.

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Civilization VI - Basil II of Byzantium

Firaxis has released the final update for its "New Frontiers" DLC Pass for Civilization VI. I have attempted to create guides for each new civilization included in the packs, but there is one civilization that I just didn't have time to cover when it was first released. That civilization was part of the September 2020 update, and it is the Byzantine Empire, lead by Basil II.

Patreon

It looks like "New Frontiers" represents the end of the Civilization VI life cycle. If that is true, then don't fret. If I get enough demand from my Patrons, I'll also write guides for the "New Frontiers" game modes, or go back and create / update guides for legacy leaders. We also have new games such as Old World and Humankind coming out. I'll be playing both games when they release on Steam, and can also write guides for those games, if my supporters ask for it.

By the third century AD, the Roman Empire had expanded to control much of Asia Minor and the Eastern Mediterranean. The cities in the eastern Greek, Asia Minor, and eastern African provinces tended to be larger and more developed than settlements in the west, owing largely to the Greek and Macadonian empires that had preceeded Rome's occupation of the regions. This made these cities far wealthier than most western cities, and in 330 AD, Emperor Constantine relocated the Roman capital to the city of Byzantium due to its strategic location at the epicenter of trade routes between Europe and Asia, and between the Mediterranean and Black seas. The empire was later split into Western and Eastern administrative partitions, each with its own emperor. When Rome was sacked in 476 and the Western Roman Empire collapsed, the Eastern Empire in Constantinople continued to thrive.

It can be argued, thusly, that the Roman Empire survived until the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in the 15th century. However, even though the Byzantine Empire can trace its authority directly to Imperial Rome, and it retained much of the legal and administrative framework inherited from the Roman Empire, eastern culture had begun to diverge from western culture before even the fall of Rome. Most citizens of the Eastern Empire may have considered themselves to be "Roman", but they spoke Greek instead of Latin. The architecture utilized ornate domes and spires as opposed to the austere columns, arches, and triangles of Latin architecture. Religious practices in the east also gradually transitioned away from the dogmatic practices of the Catholic Church until the Schism of 1054 formally established the Eastern Orthodox Church. It is, thus, equally accurate to say that the Byzantine Empire came to represent its own unique culture, independent of the Western Roman Empire.

Civilization VI - Basil II portrait

Basil II Porphyrogenitus was a life-long ruler of the Eastern Roman Empire. He was coronated as co-emperor along with his brother when he was just two years old, and ascended to the status of senior emperor at the age of 18, ruling until his death almost 50 years later. For most of his reign, he personally lead his armies into battle against Anatolian rebels, Bulgaria, the Fatimid Caliphate, and the Kingdom of Georgia, securing the empire's borders in both the west and east. Despite being away from Constantinople for so long, he also found time to distinguish himself as an administrator, reforming tax and property laws to protect poor land-owners from exploitation by wealthier elites. He also married off his sister to Vladimir I of Kiev, securing an alliance with the Kievan Rus and converting them to Orthodox Christianity. His reign was so successful, that the Empire prospered for decades after his death, despite his successor emperors being considered largely inept by both contemporary writers and modern historians. Though he is considered a national hero by the Greeks, he is known as "Basil the Murderer" by Bulgarians.

Basil II favors aggressive religious play backed up with a powerful mounted army and navy. He should seek to convert or conquer rival holy cities as soon as possible, then crush or convert his remaining rivals.

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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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