Sunday, May 31, 2020

Black Lives Matter

Hello everyone,

Scary world being scary at the moment ... I've been seeing what's been happening, reading and listening to the various people and thought I had to Say Things.
This is important. I have that loose rule of not talking about politics or other -isms but I thought I should break that one this evening.

There's really scary things happening at the moment, not just virus related ! I'm very privileged. I'm a white male from a good background. I can walk the streets with very little fear. I rarely have to worry about suspicion that I'm up to no good. I can be out after dark on my own with no fears of being molested.

I am utterly shocked to the core when I hear that people will be subject to Stop and Search because of the colour of their skin. I'm devastated when ladies report how scared they are to be in situations where they are alone and a group of men suddenly appears. I don't have to be cautious with my body language when it comes to seeing people in enforcement, in case a sudden gesture ends up in an altercation.

What's terrible at the moment is the amount of racism (and many other isms) there is in the world at the moment. Our differences make us strong. They should not be something that sets us apart. And it's been going on so long, the shock factor has gone out from it.

We are no longer surprised when we hear that someone of colour has been shot or otherwise lost their life in a situation that should most definitely not have arisen. Like Breonna Taylor, the lady who was asleep in the apartment she owned when she was murdered by Police. Like George Floyd.

That's a terrible, horrible thing to contemplate. It means the -isms have gotten so deeply enrooted in a rotten society.

And that's not just America. It's over here as well with the bias in Stop and Search, in Windrush. It'll be in other countries too. It's probably in the country that you live in. Perhaps not as visible ... but I'm always sad when I see similar situations being reported in other countries.

People have been responding to the Black Lives Matter with All Lives Matter. And they do. My life matters to a few people. Your life matters. It matters to me. The lives of my family matters, the lives of my friends, colleagues and acquaintances. All of you matter.

But the Black Lives Matter cause is the important one at the moment and it will be until something changes. Until I heard the stories, I had no fears about traveling on public transport alone. I had no fear of being stopped and searched or thought of as a gang member up to no good. I can own my fancy car without someone thinking I stole it.

A person with black skin has to think very carefully about doing all of that and has had to for the last few hundred years.

That's wrong.

And now we hear the tales of how the Police over in the USA are handling the resulting protests. You'll have seen those stories as well, I'm not going to repeat them here except to say that it's not just over the top, they appear to have been inciting escalation as well.

There is no accountability.

I'm no particular fan of my own privileged background. I believe we should all be judged equally according to our merits on a level playing field. I don't see my background being the thing that opens the door. My knowledge and skills should be what does that. Similarly, I hate to see doors being shut for people on the basis of their colour, gender or upbringing.

We all have our own -isms. What we have to do is look inside ourselves. How do we react to other people. Are we giving them that level playing field. Have we assumed something that we shouldn't have, like do we think their merits are based on gender, orientation or colour.

I know I have my own unconscious biases that affect my thinking. You will too.

I could go into a few cases from my own life but the end thing of that is while I have helped in the past, I can help better in the future. We can all do better. None of us are perfect, we should always see if we can improve.

Like meeting someone at their place instead of a meeting halfway which would mean they're going to be walking the streets after dark. Yep, could have done that instead of hurriedly arranging a different meeting place (I like to give people the chance to rely on themselves - self reliance is very important). Like standing up for the lady at work who was being bullied (situation resolved now) but my honest thing there was that I was in a deep concentration tunnel and was completely oblivious to what was going on over the other side of the divider.

There was an incident where I was having a meal with someone in an open air place and across the way were two youngish men having a bit of a handbags fight. This was making the person I was with incredibly nervous. What I should have done was told her quietly that I was keeping my eye on what was going on, I wasn't going to do anything that provoked an escalation, I was trusting the (very beefy) security guy to control the situation and my last resort would have been to put me between her and them. I think saying that would have done a lot to ease her anxiety. I stayed quiet. I'll say something next time.

What happened in the past though isn't important though. You can hold up a flag and say "I helped there !" but that's not enough. It's how we go forward, that's what counts.

Help people.
Support people.
Ditch your -isms.
Recognise difference as strength, not a root for your insecurity.

I think I've run out of steam there. Back later this week with something more like normal service but I will leave with a couple of things :

If speaking up makes you anxious, stay quiet. I'm seeing a lot of "If you don't post with us, you're against us" at the moment which I am vehemently opposed to. Some people are very anxious about speaking up because it can make them a target. I don't want to be a target and I bet you don't either. People who know you should know you well enough to know where you stand on issues like these, without having to shout it from the rooftops every time a cause comes along.
If you can change things by voting, PLEASE VOTE. Things like this don't happen on their own, they happen with direction from above. Get someone in place who will hold these people accountable.
Offer support, not judgment.
Judge people on who they are, not what they are.
Be calm, not aggressive.

Stay safe, be calm, be well.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Hot Icey Starships

It's gone warm again here !

And by warm, we Brits usually mean that we're having to not wear very much (behind closed doors) in order to survive being way too hot. (It's only peaking at about 25 degrees C but our houses are designed to keep in heat for winter).

It's actually probably time to stop the computer doing sums ... I'd turned off the Rosetta work already because they've kept their daftly short deadlines and there are hardly any Covid related work units coming through now. If the houses are designed to trap heat, it's not a great idea to add heat in ...

Leafing through some of the older pictures posted here has prompted me for the latest project ... the Currently Unnamed Dwagon Rock Band. I dunno, this was another daft idea that's taken root and it has to happen now.
The first character to be drawn is partly inspired by that and the idea as a whole gets some inspiration from :
We'll see how it goes.
That's a free hand drawn egg circle for the centre drum there. It definitely seems easier to draw the lines and circles by hand than it is by non-cheaty ways on the graphics tablet. I'll go back to the graphics tablet at some point, probably to finish the job with the Band. That fella isn't quite finished either, forgot to colour the nose.
That's another of the old pictures ... Band's gonna have a couple of guitarists in there.

Gaming has seen me go back to an old one ...
Those are the crude (but highly functional) graphics of Creeper World 3, Arc Eternal. It's the tower defence game I mentioned on Tuesday and for this mission, you have two bases split on either side of the map and enemies in the middle. Creeper spews out of the dot thingys (top and bottom middle, plus there's a couple left and right middle) and the deeper blue it is, the more layers there are of it. Your towers can shoot it, you can have bombers bomb it and the turquoise around the top is your own anti-creeper.

Tower defense games tend to be either attritional crawls across the map where you gradually gain ground in the face of the unstoppable enemy or a race where you're trying to keep your towers ahead of ever increasingly strong enemies. It's a great concept when it works well. I've been tempted to go back into Defense Grid, which did work extremely well ... but not Defense Grid 2 which changed some of the mechanics and I don't think it was as good.
I've been doing the internet spaceships thing again ... This is a balance again because overdoing it can be really bad for my wrists. I'm actually going to have to change how I fly I think, because I'm yawing a lot (turn left/right instead of banking or climbing) and I think the twisting of my flightstick is aggravating the wrist.

A new ship has appeared in the fleet ...
She's Grabnarr, named after the cheeky, chuckly, lovely Tashnarr who is streaming doing jigsaws at the moment ... (twitch link)
Grabnarr is fitted for mining work, in particular the high value Low Temperature Diamonds which are commonplace at the location above ... the rings of Borann A planet 2.
She's a Krait Mk II, very similar to the Searching For Potatoes which saw me do my last major bit of exploration. The engines are different but you still have a great view from the pilot's seat.
It can be a tight fit in there ...
Peaceful though (when the pirates are distracted away !)
Hard at work - this was just after mining out the asteroid so the purple lasers aren't on. The occasional bright spots are collector limpets going off to fetch the bits mined off the asteroid.
Sale time ! Best deal available at the time. The plan is to operate Grabnarr until I mine the 500 tonnes required to open up one of the engineers and then Grabnarr will be retired. That's probably 2 sessions of Low Temperature Diamonds and then it's the slightly lower value Painite (350k/tonne) because the engineer wants 10 tonnes of that.

Almost the end of the tale ...
Going to the Dark Side as I call it led to another milestone ... Trading Elite ! I didn't have any elite ratings in my previous 2 characters ...
Double Elite ! Combat Elite will take a fair bit longer. Might do it this year ? Expert is the middle of the 9 ranks, with Master, Dangerous, Deadly and Elite to go. A lot of that will be done in the Admiral Luperza :
Got more exploring to do first though.

Oh ! Excession was good, currently enjoying Thrawn by Timothy Zahn.

Seeya ! Stay safe, be well.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Gaming, Donut and Shopping

Hello everyone,

I've been descending into those games again ... And also dreaming of munchies.
That one happened as a quick sketch over the weekend, triggered by posts from the lovely actress and donut fan Rekha Sharma. I've been enjoying seeing what she posts on the Twitter (Linky) and it's always something nice, lovely and making people smile. Another sketch happened too but that was for my Comic Con friend. She liked it, which makes it worth it.

There's been a couple of those, sketches that I only share with the people for whom they're intended. In a time where there is the internet and whatever goes on the internet stays there (even in the archive sites), it's worth being a little circumspect with what you post. And how you edit ...

I don't edit my posts much at all. It's actually pretty rare. Like if I spot a typo in a post that's months old, I won't fix that. The kinds of edits I do tend to be formatting, sometimes blogger pops in a heap of extra line spaces, especially around pictures. I'll chop those out because it helps the flow of the post if there aren't all that many white spaces in there. But I'll only very rarely change what's in a post. It's a reflection of how and what I'm thinking at the time, so if you change the writing then you change the memory. That said, that PC bits post of the other day saw a change happen ... I don't like giving advice that's wrong and I needed to add in a "Don't get that, get this !" in there ...

Talking of shopping ... I'm mostly ignoring what's going on in the world at the moment and essentially staying in my bunker as much as I can waiting for it to blow over. That's probably the best way for everyone at the moment, although hopefully we're coming to the end of that now. I'm quite looking forwards to getting out and about around the shops again, although it'll be odd being out there again.

I'll probably need to acquire a mask so I don't get lynched for sneezing a lot.

I've been thinking about breaking the steering away from ordering stuff online too ... Let's see :

Music - I'm always wanting more and after seeing the first two episodes of Devs, I want the album by Low which has the theme tune. It's a great theme tune : Congregation by Low (youtube link). And there's more too, like expanding the Mike Oldfield collection, Dirty Vegas, Lisa Miskovsky and a couple of others like Agnes Obel.
Lego - it's calling again ...
Graphics card - I'll come on to more about this later but I'm now definitely looking to upgrade, sadly though the options are limited to the 2060 cards costing £300. That's more than I want to spend. Newer cards haven't come out for ages and it's the new cards coming out that pushes down the prices.
Books - always room for more books in the book cave.
Game ! This one is the latest. It's The Outer Worlds and I started it off after completing Deus Ex Mankind Divided last week. It's another first person perspective role playing game and because it came out just last year ... is pretty demanding on the hardware. I have it on the medium settings at the moment, which pushes my graphics card pretty hard.
Sure does look pretty though and I've been getting to grips with the gameplay so far.
Parvati's a good egg too, probably very heavily inspired by Kaylee from Firefly though ...

Other things in the gaming pot lately have been Motorsport Manager, where I'll go for the No Sponsors achievement in the next season. The team should have more than enough funding to allow that.

There's also been a re-entrance of the Nomnivorian Swarm in Stellaris, first time I've properly been back in there for a little while. Stellaris is becoming a bit of a sad case. There have been two major version updates lately ... but the quality assurance isn't there in the game any more I think. Instead of releases being held until the game is as bug free as they can manage, new bugs are introduced and old bugs are not removed. I closed today's session slightly early because my fleets hit the pacifism bug again (they get engaged in combat and don't shoot back unless you save and reload). I saw another new bug with the fleet manager on the weekend, plus there's another new one with the planet display where it doesn't show all of the pops on the planet.

It's annoying ... and there are a bunch of other games to be looking at. Besides, Stellaris has been guilty of doing nasty things to my shoulder and neck (I lean forward and look up - bad habit). I had a little peek at the Elite Fleet Carriers again :
That's the Sleepy Tea Vault, which was over on the beta server for a bit. It'll be a long time before I get a carrier on the live server, if at all. The user interface for controlling them is a bit ropey and I'm not convinced they have a viable purpose in the game. I did enjoy getting back in for some trading on Sunday though and I'll try my hand at mining at some point relatively soon.

I had another look at Creeper World 3, Arc Eternal today as well. It's a tower defense game, which is summed up by you having to fend off a series of waves of enemies by building gun and other types of towers and arranging a maze to get the most out of your defenses. Instead of having bugs or other enemies, Creeper World 3 has a fluid like enemy that gradually spreads over the map. It's a nice variation and somewhat more hands off than other strategy games. I think I'll stick with this one more.
The Outer Worlds is very pretty though.
There's some lovely rich colours in there, plus it's nice to see the stuff on the distance that you can actually travel in to. (Deus Ex Mankind Divided had great backdrops that you couldn't visit).

Oh ! I'm off work this week. It was originally scheduled to be Comic Con and Lords IST20 week. Those aren't happening this year. I needed the time off anyway, I tend to burn out these days and need to watch the signs so that it doesn't creep up on me too much. I'm planning to have a fairly easy week, although I need to moderate the game playing somewhat in order to avoid having my hands flare up. Currently got soreness in my right hand, probably due to internet spaceships ...

Oh well.
They do look pretty though. Might have to look into jumping on a deal for a better flightstick too soon ... The drawing does somewhat affect my hands as well. Putting pressure on the pad can aggravate the soreness, I think I need to look into using the graphics tablet again.

Oh - after a while away from doing them, I think I'll be doing another music post soon. It nearly happened tonight but I have more sketchy ideas ... and I think these sketchy ideas would be perfect for a music post. It may involve dwagons and a band. Let's see how it does.

In the meantime, stay safe, be well !

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Augmented Pacifism, Modest Machinery

Hello everyone,

Two things tonight ! First up :
Finished Deus Ex Mankind Divided ...

Got the Pacifist approach achievement. Yep, shooty shooty game that's possible to be played through without murdering anyone. Sure, limbs may have been broken and people put in hospital with severe concussions but ... they'll live right ?
Including that guy. You know, that one. The one I can't talk about cos of spoilers and all that.

After a shaky start, where I was finding the cover movement system to be a bit clunky, something eventually clicked and I really enjoyed playing through this one. It still has its bugs, including crash to desktop and I had one tonight which was a hang up when reloading (You reload a lot the way I was playing ...) But the bugs aren't particularly game breaking and the game comes back up again on a reload. I didn't lose my save at all ...

I'll be back playing this one again sometime. But not yet because I picked up The Outer Worlds in the latest Epic Games sale and that's supposed to be amazing. I'll play the original again too. There's potential for further games in the series but something strange happened in the games industry around the time this came out and outside of things like Assassins Creed, the studios got very wary about continuing current IPs. Bit like how the Mass Effect series ended with Andromeda.

Hopefully there's more to come from the Adam Jensen Deus Ex storyline. There's definitely more potential there, especially with threads started in the emails and articles scattered through the game and that Whopper in the credits.
Gotta do the Golden Penguin mission too, I completely missed that this time.

What else tonight ? I've seen a few things about PC upgrades again and doing it on the cheap ... So what would I get if it were around 20 years ago again and I was on a super strict budget ?

Before I dive in - disclosure note : I've never been offered any inducements by any hardware companies.

These all start with the core again and that'd be :
AMD Ryzen 3 3200G Quad core chip with graphics - £92. I'm not convinced the graphics here would allow for games like Deus Ex or other really pretty games but you can add a proper graphics card later. Point is, it saves £150-£200 as a get you going thing.
This goes in a MSI B450 motherboard for £99. This drops £75 on the board that I have. It's not the newest or shiniest but should still be a good foundation.
(A small and important edit - if you're looking at this post like a shopping list, DO NOT BUY YET. AMD are coming out with a B550 chipset which will go into better motherboards for about the same price.)
Memory spec calls for DDR4-2933. We'll actually go up to DDR4-3200 here. It's a bit faster and a bit cheaper. The system would clock it back to 2933 if it has to. Cost for 16GB - £91.

The common theme is that we're accepting these compromises in order to get a more affordable machine. It's a lower spec than what I have now ... but that's where I was 20 years ago where I had less disposable cash and income. What's appearing here wouldn't have an issue with games like Stellaris, Motorsport Manager and I suspect it'd be ok even with shooty games and Elite if the graphics were turned down a bit.

Power supply is going to be a Corsair 650W unit for £63. Don't get a cheap, nonbranded power supply ... it's a false economy. It's also just £10 to go from Corsair's 550W unit to the 650W unit. That £10 is worth it for when you'd want to later add in a graphics card.
Case - AVP K-11 Mid Tower Case with acrylic side panel. It's the cheapest Novatech have at £20.
SSD hard disc - Crucial P1 500GB M2, NVME for £73. Don't worry about the arcane stuff there, just look at "M2" - this is where it plugs in ... and "NVME" - this means it's faster.
Conventional hard disc - Toshiba 2GB 3.5" desktop drive for £56. Cheapest again and I think it's worth going up a bit from the £37 1GB drive.

And that's it !
How much ? £494 for that little lot. It isn't everything you might want though ... What's missing that you might have expected ?

Processor cooler - is included with the processor. I'm actually still using the AMD bundled cooler in my machine, I haven't had a reason to do the rigmarole involved in changing it.
Graphics - there's a basic functionality on the processor again. But this would be the first thing to change in a short term upgrade.
Optical drives - these seem to have gone out of fashion with the streaming video services. However, what I'm actually doing at the moment is to play dvds through a USB drive which uses software that comes with Windows. (£23 for dvd). You could get an external blu-ray drive for £73, although this needs software. You can get the software for free from Leawo.
Windows - you can download and run Windows 10 for free ... Here's a Tomshardware article for more info (Link - run a script or ad blocker or both). However, you get a Please Activate watermark on your desktop and some options are restricted. A Windows 10 Home OEM licence will cost a bone chilling £110.

The other items you will want are :
Keyboard - honestly, go for something really cheap. Logitech have a wired keyboard for £10. Should be just fine. I like my mechanical keyboard better but £10 level membrane keyboards are ok too.
Mouse - start around £3-£10. Best to get this in a shop where you can test the fit to your hand. Mice are all sizes and shapes and you want one you can get along with. That said, I'd look at the Logitech mice first again, I've had a £30 ish Logitech mouse for a few years ago and it does good.
Monitor - there's an IPS panel 22" LG screen in Novatech's listing for £87 but it's listed as "Ordered upon Request". I'd look at the 24" IPS panel from AOC for £150 (Scan price). IPS screens give a better image and ... the monitor is probably more important than anything else in the system, it's what you're looking at all the time.
Better make it kitty proof.

Oh and speakers - monitors can give sound but it's very meh. There's a pair from Logitech for £20 that look ok. You want your speakers to have a separate power supply and a volume control that's going to stay accessible. Mine's buried on the desk somewhere !

Beyond all that - if you're into the flight or space games, I'd look at picking up a Thrustmaster Hotas X for £48. I have one, it does me fine for internet spaceships. (Although I am suspecting it of causing wrist issues).
Graphics - can't buy my 1060 3GB card any more but it was around £200. I don't like spending more than that on graphics, there's definitely diminishing returns. A £400 card isn't twice as good as a £200 card. Options at the moment are :£140 ish for a 1650 and the 1660 cards start at £210.

That's it for me for tonight ! I don't think I've missed anything ...
There we go ! That's it for me for tonight. Almost bed time !
Totally not going to immediately follow up that pacifist run by murdering everything. Actually not ... I want to get the stealth achievement too and murder in the Deus Ex games is kinda noisy.

Besides ... I think it's The Outer Worlds next :-).

Stay safe everyone, be well.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Another Gamer Meme

Hello everyone,
I found another meme ...
All about games ! Let's see ... I'm going to attempt to resist repeat answers or using the same game twice. I suspect that won't last long :-D.

1 - A game that had a lasting impression on you. Doki Doki Literature Club. I haven't played it myself but I've seen a couple of people play it through on streams. This is a visual novel that starts out very cute and twee. And then dark things start happening. Very Dark Things. That's actually one reason I've never played it :-D.

2 - Favourite female game character. A few months ago, this would have been Commander Shepard of the Normandy in her true Femshep form. She benefits from the amazing voice of Jennifer Hale. However ... Sara Ryder of the Tempest in Mass Effect Andromeda has taken over. The game is probably too long (although that means there's lots to do) but I like the character more. It's a character that tends more to looking forwards to Happy, Fun and building a new life, whereas Shepard is fully locked in to knowing that she's facing an apocalyptic future.

3 - A game that's so bad it's good. Hmm ... I dunno actually, I think I'll go way back to Lemmings here. A simple puzzle game but also infuriating. Not sure about this one. May edit later. Also reaching back to Cannon Fodder, simple (bad) gameplay that kept you coming to try and win.

4 - A game that hit an emotional spot in your heart. Oh that has to be Mass Effect 3. It tugged on all of the heart strings in a sequence of tragic and heroic scenarios. I think the emotional hits that keep coming are why I've never replayed it.

5 - Favourite game developer or studio. I think this is probably Square Enix at the moment, because I'm riding the wave of what's actually turned out very enjoyable in Deus Ex Mankind Divided and Deus Ex Human Revolution was one of the first games I 100%'d on Steam.
Many side quests. In this one and the Mass Effects !

6 - Favourite male video game character. There might be a theme coming ... Adam Jensen of the Deus Ex earlier games. I like the gravelly voice, done by Elias Toufexis. I like playing the character. He's not an invulnerable tank, even if you do upgrade all the way. He's a tragic figure caught up in the aftermath of just trying to do his job. And this is one reason I'll keep going back to those games.

7 - 5 of your favourite Original Sound Tracks. Oh 'eck ... Teslagrad is one, even though I've never played the game. Lucasarts had a system they called iMuse for the Star Wars games, which matched authentic sounding Star Wars music with the action on screen. Mass Effect's OST nicely accompanies the game. Stellaris has an uplifting soundtrack. And I get a relaxed happy feeling when FTL's theme tune comes on the iTunes. Honorable mention to World of Warcraft as well.
8 - A game not enough people talk about. Motorsport Manager. It's a good simulation game that I think kinda stuttered because not enough people heard about it.

9 - Favourite Villain (being mindful of spoilers). I think this is Mass Effect again with the Reapers. The first time they speak is a time when you, the player, will freeze, wonder what's going on and be completely wrapped up in what's coming next. They're implacable, eternal and they're coming our way ...

10 - Favourite game as a kid. This is between the 1984 version of Elite, Revs and a Cricket game. I'll go for Elite because it did that wanderlust thing.
Still going.

11 - 5 of your favourite video games - Mass Effect, Deus Ex HR and MD, Defence Grid (not played for a while), Motorsport Manager, Stellaris. And I'll cheat by adding in Elite Dangerous too.

12 - A game or series that you've never been interested in. Counterstrike Go and the like. I've played a few of these multiplayer battle arena things but the set up puts me off. They're fast paced, shoot everything then reset to neutral again. I like to have something story based, where your performance so far matters for what's coming. This goes into the strategy games too, I preferred Panzer General over the other WW2 games as your army group would move through the missions with you. Similar with games like Homeworld, although I never finished that one.

13 - Favourite NPC or party member - I have a few of these. Farida Malik from Deus Ex Human Revolution would pilot you around between areas. This is a lady you definitely want to have on your side, indeed one of the missions involves you enacting a little Shanghai street justice on a playboy (he deserves it). I usually play through these games non-lethal but there's one section where I break that, just to keep Malik alive. Also Mordin Solus in Mass Effect and very definitely - Tali'Zorah who grows marvellously through the games.
14 - A game that never gets old - simple puzzle games that don't need fancy graphics or complicated rules. Their simplicity and gameplay keeps you coming back. Haven't played the card games for a while ...

15 - A game that everyone should play at least once - Best Fiends.

16 - A game that inspires you - This one's tough and it's between EarthX and Cosmoteer. Both are being made by singleton developers and it shows what truly talented people like that can do. I should have another look at Cosmoteer sometime.

17 - Favourite genre - I think this is story games now and this has changed over the years. It seems like the best way to carry those stories through at the moment is to put the player in the persona of the main protagonist. First person / Third person games have been working well for me there, whereas I'll bounce off games like the isometric Pathfinder or Baldur's Gate.

18 - That game you REALLY should have played by now - the original Deus Ex ! It came out in 2000, I acquired it years after release and while I've played DXHR to death and I think I'll play through DXMD a few times, I've only played the tutorial level of the original game.

19 - Favourite indie game you played recently - EarthX. It's still in development, I have it in early access but it shows enough promise that I made that step to acquire it. It's a rocket company simulator and it felt pretty good in my first look around Xmas.

20 - A game that truly scared the something out of you - Prey (newer one). I've only played the first few bits of this and the ambience was already getting me massively on edge. This is one that plays with the sound, is that rattle in the background something being dislodged or is it a mimic mimicing a coffee cup before it jumps you. Part of why I've not played that much is because I think I need a new graphics card again to appreciate it, part because it's really unsettling.
Not really. I'm saving the end of Deus Ex Mankind Divided for another night. I'm trying to not game too late at the moment ... so that I'm more likely to get some good sleep in. Gaming too late means your mind is still buzzing on that.

Over to videos and more of Excession by Iain M Banks !

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Redemption Game, Augmented Ark

Hello everyone,

Almost a week again ! I'm slipping :-) Although I think I'm still somewhat on target for my usual aim of 100 posts a year even before things like Inktober and another Advent series of posts. Might need a little time travel though.

The perspective lost its way at the top and I'm still figuring out how to fit the legs and tail in but I think this one worked out ok and the people that it happened for seemed happy with it. This one happened as a rapid sketch done over a lunch time with the finishing and colouring done after logging off for the day. It's definitely better than the 6 days of IT Depression I did in another lunchtime way back :
That was from March last year.

Inktober's definitely something I can do in the isolation, Advent might need more creativity ... The marshmallows were tasty but sadly not enough variation, I would have thought they'd put more of their variously different marshmallows in but sadly just the 6. I've enjoyed the various Star Wars advent calendars over the years but I've been increasingly feeling like they've been getting mined out. Plus the post a day format can be a bit burny out on the mind, especially if you have the sense that you need a certain number of words to go with the theme given.

How am I doing at the moment ? I'm ok, although if you'd asked after I breathed in a chunk of extra strong mint yesterday I'd have answered different ! Oops. It felt like a rock as soon as I coughed it out of my airway and the neighbours probably wondered what was going on. All good now and I was managing to not cough too much while doing the fortnightly shopping run last night.

I think we're in for more extensions of the lockdowns here. It's not like the lockdown's been lifted, it's more that people are too dumb to observe a healthy respect for the bug that's going around and our government is too weak to give a worthwhile enforceable and sensible way to go. I think that'll lead to a bouncing up again this week and next and a needless extension of the tragedy.

Hopefully I'll be proved wrong there ! I'd like to be out and about again doing the more fun part of my job as well as wandering around places seeing shiny things and especially ... seeing friends again.
Enough of that though ...

Book and game ! I've just finished reading through Redemption Ark by Alastair Reynolds and I'm steadily getting more drawn in to Deus Ex Mankind Divided. Game first ?

Go on then. I've recorded 16 hours in Deus Ex Mankind Divided (DXMD from here) and from nearly giving up on it early, I'm pretty well drawn into it now. Some of the reason for that is that they throw you into a prologue scenario with all of your augmented powers available, partly so they can give you a series of tutorials on them. The cover system is different, I think I'm getting used to it but there are occasions where I end up vaulting over a Something into the midst of a bunch of enemies.

You're not particularly tanky in this game, 2 enemies can be too much early on, making 3 enemies aware of you is usually Reload. The true way to play through is sneaky sneaky grabby thumpy, where you should be handling the missions through stealth and secrecy instead of shooty death. There's actually another reason for that too ... being merciful and non lethal gives you slightly more experience too, which may count in the end letting you turn on another augmentation slightly earlier.
Finding some fun characters too. Not sure about what they think of book clubs though.
But I'll be back to the nice lady's shop again later to see what she's got for sale.

This is actually a sign of the times with this game. It was made in 2016 when faces and face animation were a continuing development area in games ... They'd cracked being able to make amazing looking backgrounds and worlds :
I did like that one.
Not so sure about that one. I wonder if the impression to give was one of "I'd like something of what they're taking please".

I've got to the stage now where Prague is at night although I didn't take a screenshot of that last night.

But yeah, I'm steadily being drawn in to the story on this one, I've been recognising that perhaps some of the side missions need a little patience and waiting before you do them too. I think I'll have another crack at a couple of them today and see what happens and after this one finishes, I think it'll be The Outer Worlds which appeared from the Epic Store on Friday.

Book ? I finished Redemption Ark by Alastair Reynolds this week.

Another interesting addition to the Inhibitors trilogy although I think this suffers from the Middle Book Problem. These don't have a real introduction to the universe, that's the job of the first book. They don't have a real conclusion, that's the job of the last book. They're there to develop and bring on the plot of the Ark. Also somewhat to get everything in place for the last book. The Expanse series has felt a bit like this too, it feels like a trilogy of trilogies.

A little about the universe - it's the Human sphere around 700 years in the future. Humanity has spread to and colonised a variety of other worlds with the story being based around the backwater Resurgam system and previously important but now devastated Yellowstone. Humanity rose ... and then fell due to the impact of the Melding Plague, which mixes the biological with the mechanical in disastrous ways. This series is based in the late aftermath of this as humanity discovers and confronts what Iain M. Banks called an Outside Context Problem, encountering something utterly alien and infinitely beyond humanity's own capabilities. Or is it ...

Oh and trade and interstellar travel is done mostly via Lighthuggers, spaceships that accelerate to just below the speed of light taking subjective decades to get from system to system. At some point, I'll try a drawing of them although I get the impression that Elite's Imperial Cutter strongly resembles them with a cylindrical shell, tapering at bow and stern with an engine attached to each port and starboard on structural spars. Oh and they're 4km long too which is quite a bit longer than Elite's Imperial Cutter.
I'll try the usual thing of avoiding spoilers but this one's got :
Interstellar spaceship chase - a good one too.
Megalomaniac characters - several of them.
Intrigue - aplenty.
Character flaws from psychotic to sociopathic to isolationist - makes for good reading.
Apocalyptic machines - impending.
Healthy respect for physics - no cheating with faster than light.
And a steady development of the various threads before they're drawn together in the last 100 or so pages.

One thing curious is that there are several big event type things which other authors would have spun out to another 100 or so pages each, however instead they're compressed into a summary of just a couple of pages. I think this actually works pretty well ! And the book is a very healthy 646 pages already.

I'd recommend reading an Alastair Reynolds or two. I didn't enjoy Chasm City and heavily bounced off that one. I definitely enjoyed the various shenanigans running throughout Revelation Space and Revenger and Redemption Ark is a good middle book for its series.

What's next ? I've started reading Excession. This is an Iain M. Banks book set in his Culture universe, where they face their own Outside Context Problem. One issue with the Culture books is that the Culture tends to be assured of its own superiority, this one shakes that superiority at its foundation making it a really compelling book and one I'll enjoy reading again.

Later ! More tales of the augmented struggle in Prague first.