Blaugust is Back

Blaugust 2015 Day 01

It’s August which means Blaugust is back. The second annual insanity thought up by Belghast as a way to motivate bloggers like me to actually post stuff. Having to write everyday last year finally got me past some of my hang ups and bad habits about leaving drafts unpublished. Usually after writing something I’ve save it and want to come back later to proof it before publishing. A month later when I’d finally look at it again, I’d delete it because it wasn’t relevant anymore or I’d moved on to other things. While I didn’t stick to any kind of schedule, daily or otherwise, for the blog after last year’s event, I haven’t dumped any articles into daft limbo in the last twelve months like I used to.

Besides starting Blaugust, I’m just past the halfway point of GenCon. I’ve had three days of getting up at 7 am and going to bed at 2 am, and I’ve walked a ton. I don’t use a fitness tracker but I’m sure I’ve been getting in 5-6 miles a day between walking to the convention and roaming the halls. I’m exhausted and I’m sure that going to work Monday morning will be tougher than usual but I’ve had an incredible amount of fun in the last three days. The timing for GenCon worked out well as I’ll have a lot to write about from the last few days of getting to meet people and play games. And I still have one more day to go!

Ronin

Platformers are one of my least favorite genres. Aside from fighting games, nothing is as guaranteed to get me as frustrated. As a result usually I’ll immediately lose interest in a game when I find out it has platforming elements. Portal and Portal 2 being rare exceptions, in large part because they do such a good job of training you throughout the game and there aren’t any sudden difficulty increases.

That’s why I surprised myself by playing quite a bit of Ronin this weekend. I found out about the game on Friday when I saw a video from Enter Elysium, who I subscribe to for his Kerbal Space Program videos. I was interested enough from watching the first few levels that I bought the game from Gog.com.

I’m not good at memorizing levels and timing jumps. I usually really hate repeating levels too. In Ronin the platforming parts of the game are all turn based which gives me time to plan out my moves. There’s still quite a bit of trial and error repeating levels but so far it’s been very liberal with checkpoints so it’s not frustrated me yet.

I’m not sure how far in I am, but I’ve completed five levels so far and been really happy with the $9.79 I spent.

Cryptic Layoffs

I was dismayed yesterday morning when I popped into the STO Reddit  while taking a work break and the top link was to a rumor about layoffs at PWE and Cryptic. I immediately checked Smirk’s Twitter to confirm it and then looked at the feeds for Laughing Trendy, Thomas the Cat, Tacofangs, and ZeroniusRex to see if they were affected too. According to Massively OP later in the day 18 people at Cryptic were laid off in total, PWE’s offices were apparently hit much harder.

Of course the arm chair developers came out of the wood work in the comments on most of the sites I looked at. I saw a great Tweet from Elijah, one of the hosts of Priority One Podcast, that summed up my response perfectly:

There were way too many people spouting off with opinions completely divorced from reality. I read several comments from people saying that Cryptic should never have let PWE buy them which shows complete ignorance of the history of the company. Atari sold Cryptic to PWE, Cryptic didn’t sell themselves. Regardless, if PWE hadn’t bought Cryptic then, they likely wouldn’t be around at all now.

I do understand the impulse to try and rationalize a reason though.  Layoffs suck. Change is difficult, all the more so when the change is caused by an outside force. I known as I’ve experienced them myself twice and I’m a corporate software developer which is a much more stable industry than games development.

Regardless of the reasons, assigning blame doesn’t help people find jobs, and in my experience doesn’t make those who were let go or those who survived the cuts feel any better.

So I wanted to wish the vest of luck to Smirk, Positron and others now having to find new jobs, I hope they all land at places that they enjoy as much or more than their old one. Good luck also to those still at Cryptic, I hope that they’re not getting squeezed with more work to make up the difference.

Salami Inferno Bringing Down the Walls

In what feels like an annual event, Star Trek Online is getting a new Executive Producer. Stephen Ricossa, aka Salami Inferno, is taking over command from Stephen D’Angelo. Who took over after Daniel Stahl left, both times, who took over when Craig Zinkievich, the original EP, changed rolls within the company. From interviews I’ve heard Ricossa is a huge Trekkie, something he also mentions in his first EP post, and I’ve been a fan of the way he communicates with the player community in his former Lead Producer role. Hopefully that doesn’t change now that he’s in the big chair.

A good sign of that is he finished with a big teaser for the next big update:

With the launch of Season 10 Sector Space will be comprised of only three maps, with each one representing a quadrant that exists in STO.

Woot! This is something I’ve been wanting since the game launched. I’m a little apprehensive about the details as this will have to have a big impact on the chat and duty officer systems, but it will be so nice to be able to set a course and not have to worry about getting stopped at arbitrary walls within sector space. I’m also curious to see how exactly they split the sectors up into the three quadrants. Alpha and Beta quadrants have always been treated as one in Trek books/TV/movies.

Star Trek Online 5 Year Anniversary

Five Year AnniversaryWhile the anniversary event started in-game last week, today is the day it actually launched five years ago (at least according to my calendar and STO Academy). The event includes a new episode Dust to Dust that does one of my favorite things: expands on plot lines from the television series. This one revisits Harry Kim’s complicated relationship with Jhet’leya/Lyndsay Ballad from the episode Ashes to Ashes. I won’t spoil anything about it, but it’s one of the best episodes that Cryptic has done yet and includes some great voice work by Garrett Wang and Kim Rhodes.

The anniversary event has also finally gotten me out of my Kerbal Space Program rut and started me finally playing the Delta Rising expansion content. I think I am about half way through it, but I try not to look at the episode list to see since the mission titles might provide spoiler for me. The story episodes have been excellent, it’s been a real treat to hear Tuvok, Kim, Seven, Neelix, and the Doctor again. The patrol missions are fun although they pale in comparison to the story episodes. On their own though, they are fun, and a few notches higher in quality than the original patrols that were in the game the first few years. I’m particularly enjoying that the new enemies use more powers, really makes the fights more engaging.

Speaking of engaging, I’ve only stopped playing through the missions for now because I hit a level gate, something that’s not happened to me since the first year I played the game. I probably would’ve hit one earlier had I not been messing around with Duty Officer assignments the last several months and so only started the DR content once I was about level 52. My next mission requires level 55 and I’m just a few hundred points shy of that now, so I’ll get back into the story line soon.

I’m still trying to figure out my plans for remaining ships to upgrade to tier 5U using the free upgrade tokens I got, my current ship is a Vesta-class so that one was an easy decision to make. I also need to look at my equipment and decide what items I want to invest tech upgrades in. I usually get a serious case of analysis paralysis when making permanent decisions like that. So far though I haven’t felt a need to upgrade anything in order to complete the content.

Onwards to 2015

I always get excited for the start of a new year. It’s a good opportunity to take stock and attempt to get back on track.

The first for me that’s meant for me this year has been getting back into my wood shop where I haven’t been in months and working on getting things cleaned up and ready for a project that I’ve been procrastinating on for about two years. I’m in dire need of more shelf space in my home office for all of the books and other stuff that I collect. When I originally started the project I got hung up on getting my plans drawn out and trying to make sure I had all of the cuts and raw materials figured out. This year I finally spent an evening learning Sketchup and finally managed to come up with good plans. If it’s the only thing I do all year, I’ll be happy if I finally have my office shelving project finished this year.

I’m keeping the lists I made in last year’s resolutions and going to keep plugging away at them. The thing I learned from last year is I’m not good at rotating from one thing to the next. Instead I would read several books, then stop and read a ton of comics, and then stop and go back to video or board games. My goal this year is to stay more cognizant of what I’m spending my time on and not focus so obsessively on one thing at a time.

One of the big things I regret not continuing was Fleet Nights in Star Trek Online. I really want to get those started back up, which means I need to get through some of the Delta Rising content to unlock some of the new events since that’s been the easiest thing to get a group together to do.

Really the only thing I’m not looking forward to is new games. I couldn’t tell you what new MMOs are scheduled for release this year. There are a few non-MMO games that I’m looking forward to like Massive Chalice and Star Crawlers, but those are games I backed on Kickstarter and I’ve already be able to play early versions, so I don’t quite count those. Honestly, it feels pretty good as maybe I’ll finally get around to finishing a few games from my list-of-shame like the DLCs and extended ending for Mass Effect 3 that I still haven’t played.

Looking Back at 2014

To borrow a phrase: it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

One of the best things this year is Thing One started Kindergarten. My wife and I were a little concerned about how he would do, but without cause as he’s been doing great. It’s been an interesting experience getting him on the bus every morning, in fact it’s the first time that I’ve ever been able to keep a regular morning schedule. The terror of parent hood and having my kid be late for school, is far more motivating than being late for work.

The absolute worst thing this year was finding out the youngest of my two dogs had cancer and dealing with all of the treatment, heartbreak, and expenses from February to November.

Aside from the really important real life stuff, it’s been a pretty decent if strange year. GenCon was really great, Guardians of the Galaxy became my favorite movies, Blaugust was a ton of fun, and I discovered a new gaming addiction in Kerbal Space Program, something that finally supplanted Minecraft for me.

MMOs feel pretty flat though. Elder Scrolls Online started out surprisingly good but fell flat once most of the people I played with drifted off into other things. Wild Star was a skip for me from the start, too much like WoW for my tastes both in graphics and the raiding focus. Firefall and Marvel Heroes are two games that I largely ignored when they released but ended up getting into a playing for a bit, even though I’ve not returned to them recently. The one thing I was most looking forward to in the MMO space was the Delta Rising Expansion for Star Trek Online and I’ve barely touched that. Somehow Kerbal Space Program has really grabbed hold of me to exclusion of most other games since October and I’ve been putting tons of hours into both the standard stock game and heavily modded versions.

Unfortunately my List Experiment stalled out in the second half of the year. I only read 22 out of the 50 books I’d set for myself on GoodReads. And while I actually caught up a bit on my comics backlog, I still have movies from the last two Christmases that I somehow haven’t watched. How I can’t find two hours here or there to watch a movie- well then I think about wasting half a night flipping channels on the TV.

All in all, despite some of the great experiences I had over the last year, I’m glad to put it behind me.

Bye Bailey

Bailey We found out on Valentine’s Day last year that Bailey had cancer. The mass was too big for chemo but the doctor’s felt that it could be surgically removed along with his left kidney. The mass was over two pounds.

It took a bit but once he recovered from the surgery, Bailey did really well for the summer months. He was more active than he’d been in years. He put on some weight. I guess things change so gradually sometimes that we didn’t notice and apparently what my wife and I had assumed was him just getting older was actually him getting sick. Giving Bailey his medicines twice a day became a daily reminder that we were getting more time together.

Unfortunately, the surgery and follow up chemo only delayed things. By September we started to have problems getting him to eat and one of our regular oncology check ups found three new masses were growing on his remaining kidney and his liver. We struggled to get him to eat trying as many things as we could think of, but I knew by the beginning of November that he was just tired, and I wasn’t surprised when the oncologist told me we were out of treatment options. He had stopped eating anything but table scraps and was down to 25 pounds, less than he’d weighed coming out of surgery in March, and just over half of the 40 pounds he’d been for most of his life.

Bailey passed away at home early in the morning on November 26th.

I take some solace that the last few evenings of his life, Bailey and I spent cuddled on the couch. He seemed comfortable and happy. Dogs may be small animals but they leave huge holes in your life when they’re gone. I miss him dearly.

NaNoWriMo Again?

November is coming and it’s bringing NaNoWriMo with it along with some assorted holidays. When I was first asked if I was participating again, I immediately thought of last year’s story still sitting waiting on much needed revisions, and said no. But like always, I continued thinking about it, and now I’m not thinking maybe.

Last year my most productive writing sessions were the ones where I’d worked out a rough outline for the next few scenes. I seem to be less of a discovery writer than I thought I was. So I’m considering NaNoWriMo if I can get a good outline together before the end of the month. Now the only hurdle is getting a story idea and over coming my natural inclination towards procrastination.

Vacation Backlog

I’m back!

I took a month off from the blog. Unintentionally. Basically I discovered that Kerbal Space Program had added a career mode since the last time I tried it, and got extremely focused on the game.  Like I did when I first started playing Minecraft and again when I started playing with mods.

I’m also just back from a week’s vacation with my family. Going on any kind of vacation with kids is really just a different kind of work though. Not relaxing. It was still fun even though we had some unfortunate adventures on the first day of the trip. Thing One got stung on the hand and we discovered that Thing Two gets car sick. Twice. Thankfully the rest of the trip wasn’t nearly so interesting, in the we’ll laugh about it someday sense of the word.

Even though I was only gone for a week, I’ve still returned to a tons of RSS articles waiting to be read, YouTube videos to be watched, and DVRed shows to catch up on. I feel like I need a s second vacation to catch up from my first one.