Sunday, April 26, 2020

Among the stars ... again

Hello everyone,

I hope you're all being well. I've been trying out a new game ... Well, a not that old game but today's the first time I've gone back into it for a while. What's the game ?
Coming in to land in a ship who's name, alas, escapes me for now. The start of No Mans Sky sees you emerge into consciousness on a far flung planet, with no memory of what's gone before.
In my case for this game, a fairly radioactive planet with lots of orange and yellow. The game leads you in to what it has to offer reasonably gently although I'm sure I'll forget it all as I go. When the game originally came out, the idea was to steadily make your way to the galactic centre, upgrading your systems and ship as you went.
Ship definitely starts as a fixer upper. It's a short, stubby affair but I kinda like it.
Don't mind the "Omg it's a bit on fire" look. All fixed up now. Venturing further, I find myself at an abandoned base ...
Yep. That's radioactive dust being kicked up. Only slightly cooked. This place had that Merhetic Seal or whatever it was I needed to get the ship going.

One major difference between this one and Elite is that as well as having the space ship stuff, this game is really more about the ground exploration.
Found that one later ... A distress call leaving a mysteriously abandoned ship and no traces of the previous owner. Where could they have gone ? I don't think I'll be flying that ship for a while it's pretty broken.

Oh ! I have my own base too !
Looks great doesn't it. Dunno about the neighbours in the more sophisticated facility a little bit further off there. They're mysteriously missing too. Wonder where they went ? My little hut now has a teleporter device attached too which apparently brings your ship back too.
I do like that big space station. Very ... round. Populated too with odd aliens, although I need to explore in order to learn their languages. Perhaps to them, I am the odd one. If they think that then they're excellent judges of character.

Lots more to do, although I disappeared out of the game earlier due to impending hunger. A nice start, a pretty game, wondering where it'll go, hoping that upping the graphics options is going to make it even prettier without affecting frame rate too much.

I'm very confident that the Ryzen 5 3600 in Meltdown will handle it without too much effort but my graphics card is probably starting to show age now. It doesn't have the graphics memory (3GB card) that the heaviest and most detailed texture work needs.

A good start though.

Ship needs a name too ! The first word of her name is "Radiant", I think the second is "Duster" but I'm not sure. Radiant Duster is a decent name.

Stay safe, be well everyone.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Epic Journeys Conclude, What Next ?

2 games today !

And a book maybe too.
I'm attempting to settle my bouncing between games down to just about 3 or 4 at a time ... Elite and the flying is one, a first person shooter style will be another and the last game will be much more hands off, letting my dodgy wrists recuperate a bit.

The hands off game is currently transitioning from Motorsport Manager over to probably Pathfinder Kingmaker. That's a role playing game set in the Pathfinder rules set that is essentially an offshoot from D&D. It's a curious start so far, although I've been faced with having to remove and reinstall the game tonight in order to reverse damage due to mods ... (oops, no additional portraits for now). Probably more on Pathfinder at a later date, although that's much less impressive in the visuals compared to games like Elite or Mass Effect Andromeda.
One fun thing about Elite is the lighting. You can usually depend on the lighting to change on the planets between landing one evening and taking off the next.
Same place, different day. I do like landing on the edges of the canyons. The surface features are interesting, especcially with that shadowing in there in the abyss.
Found some nice places on the way back.
But every journey comes to a conclusion at some point and this is Tea-89's final docking at Medupe Station. I've switched back to the big Tiamat's Chariot now, although I haven't played since docking up on Thursday.

I have names and a callsign for 2 more ships now ...
Dolphin or Beluga class : Chasing The Rainbow
This one is named after my last Warcraft guild, Chasing Rainbows. I didn't stay in the game for too long with that guild but they were a fun bunch led by the lovely pair of Katherine of Sky and Caledorn the Tentacle Lord and after hearing that Caledorn was using the Sleepydwagonman name in his Stellaris play through, I thought I had to give something back. Chasing The Rainbow needs a callsign though.

Type to be determined : Tea and Medals, callsign VOLT-5.
This one is for the Eve Online people, some of who I still keep in touch with. There's some very good friends there. I haven't played Eve in years but Tea and Medals fired off a "That's fun!" and I do like to indulge that. The name is for my first corporation in Eve, Back Home In Time For Tea And Medals and the callsign is for the 5 founder corporations of our alliance.

I think Dark Mercenary might appear as well at some point as another WoW themed name and there are many more people I'd love to name ships after as well. But I am a little limited by wanting to keep real life friend names off here ... and all the ships will be captured in Inara and EDSM (links to the right) so the names would appear on the internet at some point.

After hearing one of the best of its music come over the iTunes just now, I'm tempted to have a look at Teslagrad. It was a freebie acquired through Humble Bundle and its music is magical. Here's a link to the theme. When I transferred my library over to the new laptop, a lot of the game soundtracks didn't make it because they're a bit too bland and non-memorable. But even though I haven't played the game, the Teslagrad soundtrack stood out.

I've enjoyed Mass Effect Andromeda, although at 76 hours to complete the game to 96%, that felt like a decade !
There are some amazing visuals in there.
Creepy, mysterious locations.
Spectacular places.
Otherworldly structures.

I'm glad I went back to this one and finished it. It had massive criticism when it came out, most of which I think was down to the Star Wars factor where the fan base becomes massively unsatisfied with what comes next with their favourite series. In the case of Mass Effect, the story was well and truly concluded at the end of Mass Effect 3, so where could they go with the next game ?

Answer, an epic quest to another galaxy. The Andromeda galaxy. A new place, with new challenges, fresh enemies, interesting allies and updated ways of playing in the universe. The combat was genuinely more fluid than what we've seen before, with movement playing much more of a part. The setting was a more peaceful set up, with an unarmed scout ship and an unarmed rover. It was fun doing Mako Mountain Climbing in Mass Effect 1 but I really disliked the hovertank of ME2 and I can't remember ground vehicles being a thing at all in ME3.

Another reason ME Andromeda got a bad rap when it was released was because it was released unfinished. Animations and faces came out weird. There are bugs in there around the quest and journal system (although these are nowhere near as bad as the ME3 bugs). Sara Ryder, the female option for the protagonist and your character, was described as ultra derpy. I actually liked this, added to the charm. Plus as the story goes, she (redacted) as a chronological 22 year old. She's allowed to be just starting to figure things out at that age.

What I find weird is that finding fault in things like that, graphics that look as good as that.
And they do look really good.

There are elements to the game I don't like. Couldn't stand Liam, loved Peebee. Game went on too long ... but this meant there was a lot to do. Some of the time, that felt like busywork but it spaced out the heavier themed main missions more. And the enemy was pretty brutal too.

I don't think I'll go back to this game for a good long while because it did take a long time to finish but it was a good journey.

The next game of this style is probably going to be Deus Ex Mankind Divided, because the series on this by Hannah Lomadia is coming up on my upcoming video playlists and I'd like to play it before it does. I also played the hell out of Deus Ex Human Revolution, loved that game. Mankind Divided is the sequel but I bounced off it when it came out because my machine at the time wasn't really up to playing it.

Definitely more to come there.

What else is on the list ? Maybe a bit of No Mans Sky as well. This one is another space exploration type game that I bounced off, also due to trouble getting it to run. (It didn't like the monitor scaling I use on this 1440p screen).

I think I nearly mentioned book as well. I have abandoned a book ! First time in a while. I was highly intrigued and interested by Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C. Clarke, so when Rama II appeared as, I believe, a Humble Bundle thing, it went on my list of things to read. Trouble is, Rama II isn't really an Arthur C. Clarke book, it's a Gentry Lee book and it shows. Whereas Rendezvous With Rama was a short, tight, hard scifi book that came in, told its story and waved good bye again quickly, Rama II is not about the scifi and it's definitely not short or tight. I read a third of it before giving up. It took that long for them to get to the second Rama. Most of that third was tedious interpersonal human drama between instantly dislikeable characters. A lot of it was wasted with heavy handed over descriptive prose about concepts that Arthur C. Clarke would have conveyed to the reader with nonchalant efficiency.

After getting a bit sick of the book after that third, I looked up reviews which pretty much confirmed what I thought already and ... said it would get worse.

Next up is Redemption Ark by Alastair Reynolds. It's the sequel to Revelation Space, set in the medium future (27th century) where humanity is among the stars and both different and the same. A few interesting characters have made themselves known so far and one characteristic of Alastair Reynolds characters is that while you're in their heads with the prose, you never really know where they're going to go.

I think I'll be enjoying more of that book in about 1 minute after hitting post ! Well, maybe 5 minutes after catching up on Twit/Book and Discord.

See you soon, stay safe, be well.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Looking forwards to ...

As the current crisis continues, it's starting to feel a bit strange like the days are blurring into each other.

I think that's actually a good thing, as one way to not notice the passage of time as a thing is to not pay that much attention to it. Sounds strange that doesn't it. One of the more memorable things I picked up from Star Trek Next Generation and Cdr Data's journey was the thing about "A watched pot never boils". He does the scientific experiments on it and whatever he does, the test kettle always boils in exactly the same time. Except when he turns off his internal chronometer, is distracted (I think cuddling Spot!) and the kettle boils as a surprise.

Gosh that's an odd one to start off the post with.
^^ I even ventured out to get the shopping tonight. Acquired 2 small Easter Eggs (there are still some left) as well. One is currently mysteriously disappearing. I grabbed a bunch of other stuff too and shouldn't have to head out for over a week again.

I'm doing the work at home thing as well but one difference from last year is that whereas last year, I was getting out and about looking at Stuff, the only period I've done that this year is the Canada thing. Hopefully more of that later in the year. You get a lot more context about the kit, how it works, what it does that you weren't expecting, when you see it in action. You don't get that sat behind a desk.

It'll be good to see the work people as well and see that they're all coming through ok. One thing that's going to be really tough is that the statistics say that at least a few of the people we all know won't make it. Hopefully for me that'll be zero and everyone I know will come through this ok. The only thing I can do to impact though is to not endanger them by being the source of the risk.

But enough of that, this was supposed to be more about things to look forwards to when we get to go out again.
Hopefully lots of places to be. For me, there are going to be the highlights of :

Bookbarn. This is a nice chilled out place with an absolute avalanche of books and a nice little coffee shop too. Even better visiting it with a friend and helping them carry away the books that you persuaded them to buy.

Cardiff. Here we have the Book Cave, the sweet shop and there's also the Lego shop too ... And you can get a nice chilled out wander over there too. Cardiff is a big hot spot though, so ... maybe this one will be in a good while.

Bristol centre ? Not so thrilled about Bristol centre these days. One issue with the raising of the business rates is that the smaller curiosity shops closed and moved out. There's less of interest around these days, although again it's a nice little chilled out wander.

Heading out with friends. I know a few very special people and it's great to catch up over a meal out and / or a movie.
Popcorn and a movie. I nearly caught a movie on the last few days that the cinemas were open but wasn't feeling it. It'll be good to get out to the movies again with a big bucket of popcorn salty enough to make your lips feel like they're burning. And to see a great movie too. I don't think I'll care too much what I see, I'll just be very happy seeing movies again.

Getting out in the fresh air again, maybe a long walk. I'm not getting much exercise at the moment and I'll definitely feel that when I ask my legs to be doing stuff again.
I always look forwards to Comic Con every year. Hopefully we get one this year. The London and Birmingham venues are currently Nightingale hospitals.

The cricket too ! That's in severe danger of not happening at all I think. The Lords days are long days but it's great to chill out in that stadium watching the cricket in a quiet area away from the more dense areas of the crowd.

And lots of other places too. I've had Bristol's Planetarium in my list of things to see for a number of years now. It'd be good to do some day runs into the Cotswolds too. Bristol Aquarium ? Portsmouth ? Perhaps.

Yep. Plenty of things to see out there.

I would sound a note of caution though ...
When the restrictions are lifted, be a bit cautious still. I'm not really thinking virus there, I'm thinking attitudes. There will be a huge number of people out there who have a sense of immortality due to surviving. There will be the people who have got used to not being responsible. There will be the people who are just normally incredibly reckless.

You will see these people out there around you if you venture out at the moment. Better believe that when restrictions lift, these people will be out and about crowding without a care in the world. Hopefully it doesn't lead to a resurgance in the virus but I'm not really thinking of that, I'm thinking more of accidents on the roads, general poor behaviour and huge crowds. General craziness on a level we haven't seen before.

Personally, I get a bit wobbly when I'm in crowds anyway. I have a kind of Too Many People alarm that goes off and I'll want to escape to peace and quiet for a while. I think the throngs that we'll see will definitely trigger too many people anxiety feelings.

So ... be careful, be wary, watch out for other people being silly but most of all :
Have fun. Be safe. Stay at home for now, dream of when we're allowed to get out there again. Make plans ! I don't think it matters that those plans won't have a date they can happen yet. Just keep in mind what you're going to be looking forward to after the isolation periods finish. And the more discipline we have now, the sooner we'll be able to get out and about again.

Have a great evening everyone :-)

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

A mini rant or two ... and mint choc planets

Hello everyone,

Still here, still doing that isolation thing, also back in that work thing too after having the week off before Easter. It's feeling odd though doing that switch from work mode to play mode though.

Saying that though, about 10 minutes after the work laptop shut down yesterday, I was in that internet spaceship pilot seat again. I'm having that thought that I'd like to be in a game again but ... which one ! Haha, part of the not being in game at the moment is due to the dinner being in the oven so that means game would be something like Motorsport Manager or one of that ilk where it's :

A - much more hands off than something like a first person shooter style
B - doesn't take up space on the desk like the flightstick in Elite does.

But first ... I have a couple of rants ... And of course, before that, we need a suitable thumbnail pic for the post.
What could be over the horizon ? I sense there are many tasty munchies over there (that I haven't burned in the oven) and some great company that'll have plenty of stories and things to talk about after we all emerge from quarantine. But at the same time, I don't want that to be too early because then the trend of infection will just bounce back, we'll be in isolation again and we'll have to get used to potentially even more friends and contacts no longer being with us. (I haven't been directly touched by it yet but you see the stories and it can get to you).

First rant ... You'll have seen, maybe, stories about science groups like Folding@Home and Rosetta asking for you to donate processing power in order to aid research into fighting this virus. The trouble is, some of them believe they have more rights to do their science than other people.

Folding@Home never got on to my machine for other reasons (they don't play with BOINC and it burns out graphics cards). But Rosetta's close to getting binned for been far too keen on sending work to the machine.

The default setting I have is to have 2 days worth of work on the machine. That's on an old understanding from almost back in dial up modem days so that the machine wouldn't be going to the network too often. It's also on an expectation that there would be about a week to return units. Rosetta seems to have cut that down to about 4 days. Not on. Oh and they'll also ignore the priority settings so that their work units get downloaded instead of another project's science. I turn the science off when I'm in games because it's like : My Computer and I get first call on its time. Shoving 2 days worth of work unit on to a machine and expecting it to be done in 3 is cheeky.

That's got other people (like LHC@Home) banned from using the machine as well and ... I set this one to clear all tasks today. When the system runs out off work, I'll turn on the work fetch again to see how it behaves but to be honest, we're reaching the time of year when I don't want the computer pushing out heat due to doing Sums.

Rant 1 done. I think we've earned a pic ...

The other rant is about games .... I thought about putting a fair bit of time into Mordheim. It's a Warhammer game, based around small unit tactics. 2 matched warbands go into the streets and fight over the resources scattered around the map. It's most interesting feature is the amount of customisation you can put in to your people.

But those dice rolls ...

Some games attract a certain amount of infamy for their random number generation principles. Other games induce complete and utter rage.

Let's just say that Mordheim isn't on the machine any more after being uninstalled. It's not often something pushes me like that but when you confirm a stream of rolls that improbably go heavily against the probabilities quoted, any potential joy goes out of the game and you have to walk away.

One thing about strategy and tactics games is that you should not be fighting fair in order to win. You stack the deck through strategy in order to weight the fight in favour of your side. If you get caught out and lose, you should be able to figure out why you've lost and come up with an answer. Like having a favourite soldier in XCom 1/2 be lost because you left them out in the open and exposed. I'll accept that kind of loss in a game but if it's a case of crowding an enemy and then losing your people to crazy improbable streaks of dice rolls ... it's time to find a fun game instead of one that has hidden mechanics that are designed to torture the player.

And it doesn't help when the game continually saves status and doesn't let you roll back a save.

That probably sounds a bit petulant doesn't it. And you'd be right !
But at the end of the day, if the game isn't fun, walk away and find a different game. It might well be Pathfinder Kingmaker for me next. That's a D&D type system that emerged when people got a bit disgruntled at the lack of customisation in D&D 4th edition.

Should be good, although I didn't get that far in either of the Baldur's Gate games.

That's me done with the rants. I'm looking to allow my hands to recover a bit with Elite. They're not painful at the moment but they're giving me the starts of "If you're not careful, us hands we gonna flare" and it's best to obey those signals before the real pain starts or recovery takes longer and is more painful.
That's the Colonia Nebula and signaled my arrival at the second leg of Tea-89's journey.
Click for bigger on these by the way :-). This was the first Brown Alert moment for a little while. Sometimes you pop out of hyperspace at a close binary arrangement like this and the second star will be behind the one you enter the system at. You go through the corona of the star as you're coming in. You don't hit because there's a game mechanic which prevents that but ... it's still Brown Alert when you see it on screen.
I was flying further on the trip back and found this, thought it looked like a Firebird. Pretty.
Some places are odder than others ...
I found an abandoned exploration camp ...
Had a good look around. Note the sad lack of RGB'ing on the wheels ... I have actually been shamed for the red lighting on one of the discords. I sadly forgot to reapply it when switching the configuration of the ship around slightly but ....
Normality resumed. That's actually where I am at the moment but ... one last pic :
Another luminous green gas giant ! I do miss Mint Choc Chip ice cream, haven't had it for a little while.

Stay safe, be well.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Voyage to the Happy Planet

Hello everyone, hope you're all well ...

I found the Happy Planet today !
Actually looks a bit like the Cranky Planet. I had to wait a couple of hours (actually logged off, eyelids were heavy and I lost that couple of hours!) until the sun came up in its day / night cycle and I don't think the Happy Planet had had any coffee yet.

I've been finding some more things as well but first ... Spotted this earlier :
Neat ! And good things to bear in mind during this isolation period. Let's see :

Keep communicating : oh yes. Definitely. Our own minds tend to be a trap which distort our perception of the world. It's good to break out off that trap, talk to other people. Listen to others, share in what they're going through. See if they have something that makes you chuckle. Pass on that thing that made you chuckle to brighten up someone else's day.

I'm probably lucky that I have a few excellent friends who I can keep that communication going with. Plus I was very lucky to find HeyChrissa's community which drew me in to the best communities in the online streaming world. You have to be a bit careful in which communities you stay in, avoid the toxic ones, I've also rapidly retreated from some which were just too frenetic. Others have areas which are incredibly busy, I don't even try to keep up with those.

Stay healthy, both in body and mind.

Stick to a routine - sometimes when I'm on leave or otherwise not in work for a while, I'll allow my time sense to steadily shift. I'll have like a 4am sleep to noon wake cycle. That's not really healthy. I'll sleep long on the weekends but I'm logging in for the work from home at around 7.30 to 7.45am every day. Plus it helps a lot that I'm not losing at least 90 minutes on the trip in and out of work at the moment.

Make Technology Work For You - and at the same time, don't let it work against you. Our ability to exploit technology to communicate has completely transformed over the past 10 years. Smart phones existed before but were rarer. We had slower email. Discord didn't exist and I wasn't on Twitter 10 years ago too. We are so much more connected via the virtual world. HOWEVER ! That means we're also far more connected to the virtual world. There's huge amounts of bad stuff out there. Keep to the good, cut out the bad. You don't need to search out the bad stuff and have it in your life.
Don't waste energy worrying about things outside your control. I can't control who is getting sick at the moment. I can only control the chances of me getting sick and through that, the chances of passing me being ill on to other people. That said, my mind goes to the numbers when I try and get to sleep. I am genuinely losing sleep due to the numbers being shown at the moment and from thoughts of where those numbers could go. If you're doing that as well, I applaud you. It's not a particularly healthy thought but it is an extremely human thought and if you are worried about the other people affected by this tragedy, that means you have a good heart.
Look for new opportunities to be creative. Don't worry about the "You have loads of new time, learn a new skill !". You may not have the aptitude to become a portrait artist or learn new languages. I don't and that's ok. It's ok for you too. Look at what you, yes you, can do to keep your mind busy and active. Me, I've been looking at seeing what I can get from Elite from the screenshots (more later) and from my own paltry art skills to turn daft ideas into things I hope make other people chuckle. I'm also looking to keep posting here, partly to reassure people reading this (you're awesome by the way) that I'm ok but also so that I'm writing and getting thoughts out of my head.

Accept that we must adapt to the new environment we are living in. I've come to terms with it, there's not actually that much change for me. But I am so definitely looking forward to having the freedom to idly wander around city centre shopping without thoughts of catching something. I want to watch cinema movies again. And I want to see friends again.

Embrace the fact that the future will be different. I've seen a few people saying that we mustn't go back to how things were before. I disagree. We must always remember. But we must not be marked by it. We must not be dominated by shadow, we should be able to find the path back to fully enjoying life and each other.

Don't worry be happy as the song said.
And I'll be looking forward to visiting new places too.

I can hear the dinner alarm going and it's already a bit late ! So I'll save the other screenshots for later and bid you a good night.

Stay safe, be well.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Adventures in Space

Back to work yesterday ! Kinda.

We're still in working from home mode but I was mostly ready to go back. There's a weird kind of anxiety at the moment where the uncertainty over the incubation period of covid makes you wonder if a wheeze is a sign of impending virus or if it's just allergies.

I'm pretty certain it's just allergies (because I've been isolating at home for almost all of the last few weeks) but that anxiety tends to kick when you don't want it to.

Hope everyone reading this is ok.

Right - that's anxieties logged and hopefully able to be moved on from ... I've been thinking about new games to follow from the ones I'm in at the moment. I'm also tackling Arthur C Clarke's Rama 2 which is frustrating from some points of view, curious from others. It reads better so far than some of his others. More of that when I finish it.
There have been more journeys of Tea-89 ... Seen there discovering an Earth Like world while venturing across from the Galactic Core.
I found a good place to stop too on Monday. Very rugged.
Looked better in the daylight, although it can be tough to get the perspective to really show off how rugged some of these planets can be.
Can't land on planets with atmospheres yet though, that isn't in the game yet.
That session finished with me visiting a gas giant world that's been dubbed The Palantir. Shiny. It had some moons as well, which saw me finding a good spot to park up ...
A fairly rare shot for me showing the detail at the stern of the ship. I like the detail, from where the engines are, to where that rear hatch is. Detail is good.
Nice impact crater too and a planet bringing out that lovely paint job.

It hasn't all been Elite though (I'm somewhat looking to ration the time there so I don't break my hands on it). The Mass Effect Andromeda run is coming to a finish, that's been an epic one.
Stunning visuals for that place and ultra low gravity giving opportunities for hang time with the jumps.
Nice looking ships too.

I think it'll be Deus Ex Mankind Divided after finishing Andromeda. After being addicted to Deus Ex Human Revolution and keenly anticipating DXMD, I bounced off the sequel quite hard partly due to experiencing technical problems. I have a different graphics card now though and an upgrade ... so it should do better.

Another different one is Mordheim ... which is more a tactical game. It doesn't need twitch reactions, so it's a more relaxed playing style. But it's brutal ...
OUCH ! That was a really tough start and the second try was almost as bad ! Sleepy von Dwagon died the first time and got brain damage on the second attempt. I'll try again at some point. Just gotta get the dice rolls in my favour for a change.

There's a thing in gaming that started with XCom ... beware the 95% chance to hit, because the game (or luck) may have a bias built in. You go for that almost certain chance, knowing that missing causes certain doom and ... whoosh, miss, bad things happening. XCom does that, Mordheim does that, Blood Bowl definitely messes with your mind like that.

But we still go back to play them :-D.

Stay safe, be well, hope your sanity is more intact than mine can get after a Xcom / Blood Bowl / Mordheim session. And if you're getting frustrated at something that's supposed to be fun, give it a break for a bit, come back refreshed with more ideas for how to win.

Cya !