My brother and I are always about two levels apart. Originally, me above him, but last time we played (a year or two ago), he ended up surpassing me. (I used to have an obsession with Gauntlet: Dark Legacy, thus had the experience and familiarity to help me. But I got rusty and I remember earlier levels better than later ones, allowing for his natural ability to eventually overtake my learned skills.) So now, he's two levels above me. My younger sister's about 5 levels below me, because she's not nearly as skilled nor as experienced. (Though I mainly played Gauntlet: Dark Legacy, it should be noted my brother extensively played the original Gauntlet Legends with my older sister. I ultimately think I logged more hours than him there, too, but he has that experience, and did also play Gauntlet: Dark Legacy albeit never as extensively as myself.) My older sister originally joined after we were already a few levels in. She's also a weaker player, perhaps even weaker than my younger sister (in spite of being more experienced), so she's at least ten levels behind.
Anyway, we played through the last sky level, beat the Plague Fiend and then went back to beat the Chimera, and then...discovered we were short on the crystals needed to enter the forest realm. No easy feat, mind you! Normally, there's such an overabundance (especially if you occasionally replay a level for a warm-up as we often do; we started out with the first mountain level to get familiarized with the game again) that you've gotten enough to advance well before the last level was over--sometimes, even before you've begun it! Only an act (or several) of sheer incompetence would allow such a distinguished accomplishment to be possible, and yet, there we were! We needed to replay a random level, and after a funny bit of division where all four of us chose different levels, ultimately we decided to replay level 2.
My brother said he might cry (or kill himself or similar expression; you get the idea, it was that type of declaration) if it turned out we were one platform's worth of crystals away from having enough.
...Sure enough, we were the first platform's worth of crystals short of the forest realm, so we spent the rest of that level rushing through. (Mind you, it was probably a bad idea.)
...Which took us into the forest levels. We cruised through them a little bit recklessly, likely as a holdover of our previous dealings. (Our warmup was just that, so we sped through it without caution, and the second sky level was because of our failings, so once we had what we needed, we sped through the level, meaning that...we sort-of continued the trend.) Then, we got to the last forest level, with the tree grunts, and to our surprise...found ourselves under-leveled. (In hindsight, I remember being 10-20 levels higher when I solo-played through there.) I started the level as 39 (my brother, 41) and finished at 40, so it was a bit jarring to see how many hits it took to bring the wooden grunts down.
...But we managed, all the same. We beat the level, bought our health at the store...ready to save our game like we do after every level...and right then and there, the console crashed. Given I was 39 before and had gone up to 40, this was a little bit heartbreaking, especially since we were getting vaguely close to dinnertime. (Christmas supper is nearly identical to Thanksgiving for us. I have mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, creamstyle corn, and peas, all as a sort-of dip for my meat, which is a mix of both Dark and White when I can. Yep, you know how it goes: mashed potatoes on the bottom, pre-salted and buttered. Stuffing added on, then gravy, and so on, with me ramming the pieces of meat into it and scooping it up to eat. Delicious.)
...However, it did give me JUST enough time to play Starcraft, and beat the mission I couldn't manage last year. (Terran's 7th mission, The Trump Card.) And I do mean just enough--I almost didn't get it. (I take a loooooooooooong time to win my missions. Mainly because I like to take the longest possible route to victory, admittedly.) I set up my defenses well enough. I even reclaimed the southern area you initially lose, while low on resources no less! (I had basically zero crystals, and knew there were enemies lurking in that zone. So every loss hurt me, very badly. But I did it.) All while defending the northern staging area.
Just one small problem: once I had fortified my defenses and built up my little strike team, I couldn't punch through their defenses. Both of us out of resources to gather, we were locked in a bit of a stalemate. All their attacks would fail, but any attack by me would also fail miserably. Not having confidence in my ability to leapfrog on such limited resources (leapfrogging is my favorite tactic, both in Starcraft and Age of Empires), nor having the confidence I'd win on atrophy, and certainly not having the confidence that I'd win on my battle tactics (in Age of Empires, there's a pause button that allows me to coordinate forces effectively. In Starcraft, no such function exists as far as I know, so it's all in real-time, and while I can set units to commands, I'm kinda slow to react), I carefully planned an 'assault' which used all three: inflict lethal casualties on them while only taking damage on my own units, while controlling a couple of their key routes with singular badly-defended bunkers (with 4x marines moved up) and missile silos, effectively little more than guard towers since they were so vulnerable that they needed wraith support (and SVP repairs) each time they were attacked.
It got me much closer, though. Because this done, I save-scummed a few times to memorize their fighting force. (It's one thing to see it with scans, an ability I heavily used. Quite another to actually experience it first-hand.) Finally, I figured out a plan that didn't destroy their entire base...but got rid of all their visible forces in the area and crippled their infrastructure. This allowed me to move Kerrigan and the beacon in, since I had the remnants of my strike force guarding the area. It was still very close, though. I only wiped out their visible forces, crippling yet not destroying their infrastructure, at the cost of all five Goliaths I had and well over half my wraiths. Brutal, inefficient, but ultimately, a successful battle.
I then had time only to get a feeling for the next level (I sent my units to die, essentially, scouting the map to feel where the enemies were), though I'd begin the level properly after supper. Now, though, first thing's first, I can never adequately explain our family's Christmases enough. They're so layered with traditions of our own familial culture (and in-jokes and whatnot), I wouldn't even know where to begin. I can go over some items, though. I got an MP3 player--with radio (its main draw)--from my brother.
...I got a portable radio from my dad. This was not even close to the only duplicate gift, because they think so much alike. (Another was getting a Thermometer for my younger sister, since her apartment has none, and the electric company said the average temperature in her house last month was 41. Average. As in, when asked if her breath showed inside, she was very evasive about it and weaseled it as being 'maybe once'.) My brother also gave me a battery-powered alarm clock (a hopefully-reliable one) so that I wouldn't need my parents to wake me up. From my parents, I got a new Tae Kwon Do bag, one which should fit everything I need. (My current bag is too small and old--thus, has been falling apart for quite some time.) They additionally gave me new clothing: underarmor-leggings, which I had a shortage of compared to shirts.
My underreaction to that eventually, down the line when my brother had done most of his and my dad was beginning his, sparked a comment of,
"I guess it's a guy thing" to not view clothes as presents. I couldn't say my full feelings (which I've documented in my blog already) on the subject, for obvious reasons (well, obvious if you've read the relevant blog posts to know my family's history a bit), but I didn't let the comment go. I couldn't. It took me only a little while to come up with a response, to break my association with the image as a guy. So ultimately, I said,
"It's not that. It's that...well, girl clothes are pretty. Guy clothes aren't."
Which is technically true. Girl clothes are all adorned and fancy, whereas guy clothes are simple and plain.
...They had no clue the true implications of my words, though, because that was me in a roundabout way basically once again flat-out stating that given the choice, yes, I'd want girl clothes. I am, however, fine with the interpretation they did end up inferring:
"So, if we bought you a tunic, you'd wear it?" And I said yes. Because tunics can be awesome, genders be damned. (Pardon the language, but that's how the expression goes.)
...Preeeeetty sure I'm gonna get one as a present next year. Birthday, Christmas, doesn't matter; my family has this weird way of having good memories when it comes to really random stuff. (That's one reason our traditions are so hard to describe. I have no reference pool of what people think versus what we do.) And that's okay, albeit not as much as I'd like, saaaaaaaaaaaay, a dress. Because, yes. They are pretty, and some day, I will wear one. Until I do, though...a tunic would be more than acceptable. When presenting as something I'm not, might as well present something stylish.
Additional notes in humor go into the video games I got. I got Skyrim and I believe Dragon Age II. (I'd have to look at its title. It's not Dragon Age: Origins, but I think it's the game after that. I don't know how many Dragon Age games there are, though. I'm just kinda assuming Origins is the first, and that game-after-Origins is the second, but I could be entirely wrong on that.) The former was from my parents, since when it came up in some conversation a long time ago, I talked about what I knew of it, and that I'd enjoy it since it's (basically from my understanding) essentially like an almost-FPS version of Fable. (Not the best of comparisons, I'm sure, but it's a convenient point of reference; I've played Fable to its fullest, played Fable2 to almost its fullest, and am halfway through my first Fable3 playthrough, and I have seen many descriptions of Skyrim's content, I've seen it shown on the TV, I've looked up stuff on the elder scrolls wiki for research purposes, and so on.) In this case, it's the PS3 version.
The second one also has a story behind it. Remember my blog about my sisters and me shopping? Well, we took a shot in the dark and bought my brother that one game (its name slips me as of this writing, but I'll edit it in when I see it), over 180 awards I think, positive reviews everywhere, nothing but good things by word-of-mouth, but I know absolutely nothing about it. (I believe it's a Bungee game, since my brother commented in surprise that they'd make a PS4 game.) That should give you enough information to figure out what we got him. (With luck, it was a good purchase.)
...But before that, though, I looked at the Dragon Age game and told them, completely innocently as an offhanded remark, "I mean, I'm pretty sure that I'd like it, but while he and I have some similar tastes, they're not identical, and I'm not entirely sure he would." (More or less, anyway. You might find that I absolutely suck at remembering exact words, so I paraphrase a LOT.) They took that comment to heart and bought it, and it was a pleasant surprise to see. (Also a PS3 game, by the way.)
...Aaaanywaaaay, a gift we as a family got ourselves was Guardians of the Galaxy. We planned to watch it, too--only to discover it's a Blu-ray, which my Grandpa apparently doesn't have a player for. (I coulda sworn he did, but apparently not!) Not a problem, right? Just use the PS3 we brought!
...Eeexcept the encryption key is out of date (meaning that the one on Guardians is too new for our PS3 to decode), requiring a software upgrade...which, mind you, is something that must be done...yep...online. And, as you know, that would be a tad bit difficult on dial-up.
No movie for us! Not tonight, anyway. Instead, my brother, younger sister, and I did Age of Empires tonight. Maintaining our every-other routine, 3v4 on medium was a massacre...with us as the sacrifices. Mercifully, we died by wonder in King of the Hill (something we decided to experiment with), rather than total annihilation, but we were well on our way to being wiped out anyway. So. much. deeeeeeeeeeeath......
(Yeah, we suck.)
I also confirmed today that dial-up can't handle Kongregate. True shame. Ah, well. Gave me time to write this!