Archive for the ‘Rambles’ Category.

Farewell GTX, Hello GTX

Saturday night I sat down at my gaming desktop to check in on some MMOs that I hadn’t logged into in months, namely LotRO, Rift, and Defiance.

I spent about 15 minutes in Rift moving all my inventory over to my Vault and then redeeming all of the patronage rewards that had been stacking up before canceling my subscription. I haven’t touched the game since before it went free-to-play, it’s just too much work to get back up to speed with all of the soul changes, and had been waiting on my last renewal to run out.

Then I hopped into LotRO just intending to pay my housing upkeep, but I ended up fiddling around and discovered that the inventory system changed. I was able to merge all my individual bags into a single window! Maybe I’m easily amused, but it makes thing so much easier when only one large window pops open instead of six little windows. I imagine people running mods have been enjoying something similar for a while, but I really dislike messing with mods for MMO clients.

Anyway, I ended up playing with my Hunter a bit and figuring out the big class changes from a few months back. I had just finished and ported back to where I’d left off questing when the game crashed. I chalked it up to LotRO being old, after all it is still slow to load and still doesn’t support full-screen windowed mode, and decided to move on to Defiance.

Watching the Season 2 premiere got me curious about what state the game was in. When I logged in, I found that I had more than a dozen items to claim in the shop. Once I got my inventory squared away, I got on my ATV and headed out only to have the game crash. Again, not thinking anything of it, I relaunched and noticed a button to update appearance on the login screen, and decided to have a makeover. While tweaking my character’s appearance I had the screen go black and then a Windows message popped up that my graphics kernel has crashed and restarted.

I had recently update my drivers and wondered if that had been a mistake, but went ahead and went back to fiddling with my character’s appearance. Then red lines started to appear on the screen, followed by my machine rebooting.

Crap.

When my machine came back up in safe mode and there were still red lines on the screen, I knew it wasn’t the drivers. Or at least wasn’t only the drivers.

I’ve never had a video card die on me before, especially one that’s only a coupe of years old. I’m not sure when but sometime in the last five years I’d upgrades the original GTX 275 that I’d used in the build with a GTX 580, so it’s no older than that. It has seen pretty constant use though.

Regardless, I took a trip to Fry’s on Sunday and picked up a new GTX 760, which isn’t quite top of the line, but is still better than the 580 without being ludicrously expensive. Plus my motherboard is old enough to be PCI-express 2.0 not 3.0 so I’m already capping my performance with the 760 as it is.

Bye Riv

I’ve been pretty obsessed with Space Engineers lately and hadn’t been paying much attention to anything else, but I happened to bring up Twitter last night and caught a blog post tweet from @Girl_grey. Since Feedly’s been down I clicked through and couldn’t believe it. River, the guy behind A High Latency Life, had died suddenly.

My brain’s still not really processing the news. We weren’t super close, but he was great fun to chat/joke with on Twitter and is one of the few bloggers that I read who could write a rant and be both funny and abrasive. I’m going to miss you, Riv.

Roll 20s

Transmetropolitan

transmet1Transmetropolitan is a comic series written by Warren Ellis that ran sixty issues from 1997 to 2002. I own the complete run but had never finished reading it, I’d stopped at issue 45. No idea why really except that I’m easily distracted, and yes that means I have twelve year old comics in my reading backlog.

Anyway, given my habit of acquiring stuff, it’s ironic that I found I was missing issue 58 when I was putting my comic list together for my resolution project. I’ve no idea if I just never bought it and maybe I misplaced it. Nevertheless, I can’t have a one issue hole in the series, so I headed off to Ebay to see if I could find a copy. Surprisingly I found three copies, all of them for under $5 plus shipping. More irony that my resolution to consume more and buy less turned into an excuse to buy something.

It took me a few days of leaving the stack of comics on my deck before I finally picked the series back up, but once I did I was immediately hooked again and read through all fifteen issues in two nights. Even after all this time the conflict and characters came back to me quickly. If you haven’t read it I recommend picking up the trade paperbacks, its themes of government corruption and the duties of journalism are even more applicable now than they were twelve years ago.

Books and Board Games

Books

I’m up to 10 books read for the year so far, which puts me 3 ahead of schedule for my GoodReads goal of 50 and leaves me with 152 (I moved a few books from the wishlist over and added a few shorts, so the math doesn’t match up with my last progress post). Looking at a big number like that, 10 books read doesn’t seem like a big deal except I’ve finished two series in those ten, Lindsay Buroker’s excellent Emperor’s Edge series and Glen Cook’s wonderful Garrett P.I. series, which actually makes it feel like a lot of progress.

Board Games

I bought Pathfinder ACG last October and wasn’t really impressed with my first two plays. My first game I made the mistake of playing solo using only one character, which really limits game play. I also made the mistake of using Ezren (a human wizard) and one of the first cards he encountered was a barrier requiring a strength check which was impossible for him. My second game was with a buddy where we each ran one character, and that was quite a bit more fun, but it wasn’t until I recently got the game out again and played with four characters that it was really fun.

The other game that’s been sitting on my shelf for a long time which I finally got out is Thunderstone Advance. This was fun but very difficult at least for the card draws I was getting. I need to play some more but right now Pathfinder is keeping my interest much more.

Before my recent resurgence of interest in Pathfinder, I’d been playing either Marvel Legendary for the Online League I’ve been participating in on BoardGameGeek or Sentinels of the Multiverse.

Other Stuff

I’ve unfortunately done very little with my comics or movies lists, I’m still working on training myself to switch back and forth between my different goals for the year. Multitasking like that is not something I’ve ever been good at. I’m much more of a serial obsessive, where I go on a month-long kick of just reading or just playing games.

I have been playing some MMOs a bit more regularly though. Star Trek Online has been a nearly daily thing. I’ve been making sure to at least hop in long enough to do the daily for the Anniversary ship. While I prefer the old way where you just have to finish a mission, I do understand that it makes more sense for Cryptic to entice people to logon more regularly. At least the Q daily missions are quick so it’s a pretty painless grind.

I’ve also picked Neverwinter back up, it was surprisingly easy to pick back up where I left off.  This is one of those games that I don’t think I stopped playing for any particular reason other than I got distracted by something else. I started back up both because of that and because the Multiplaying group is having a weekly Wednesday night game. In typical fashion though I’ve not actually joined in on a Wednesday night yet.

Despite getting back into two MMOs, I still don’t feel like I’m really back into the genre and I’m ambivalent at best about the new games that are supposed to release this year.

List Resolution Progress

Over the last ten days I’ve been working on my lists resolution, so far I have lists of books, comics, movies, gamebooks, and video games. My goal is to complete each of these lists, except the book list, by the end of December. That one’s just too big to finish, but if I can get through the first 50 to 75 titles I’ll be happy. I’m going to have a busy year. 

Books

The book list is far and away the biggest one. I’ve got everything from my to read shelves in my office, my to read list on GoodReads, unread stuff from my Kindle, and a few ebooks that were in my Dropbox which I’d forgotten about. I ended up with 233 titles to read.

That’s a ridiculous number and I was having trouble prioritizing it, so I ended up moving 62 books off of the to read list to a wishlist. These were books I’d put on my to read list but hadn’t bought in either paper or bits form. This helped reduce the amount of books to sort through and even better it’s given me a place to put books that Mogsy reviews which I’m interested in without expanding my to read list any further.  Still, 171 is a lot of books. I removed a couple of titles that I’d already read before and bought because I’d originally read a library copy. A few more were removed because they were reference and self-help books that I don’t need. That only got me down to 156 unfortunately, which is a lot but it’s better than 233.

For prioritizing, I put any series that I haven’t caught up at the top.  Glen Cook’s Garrett P.I. series, Lindsay Buroker’s Emperor’s Edge series, and Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson books. There’s a few books from C.J. Cherryh’s Invader series I haven’t read yet and probably should be higher, but I tried to mix in graphics novels and one shot books between all of the series to keep from getting burnt out. I’m still not completely happy with the order for the list, but I decided I needed to stop fiddling with it since I can always adjust it as I go.

Comics

My comics list is far less crazy, although technically there’s overlap with the book list since that’s where I put the graphic novels. I have 51- and while typing that I realized I forgot about my Comixology and Dark Horse accounts. So actually I have 84 unread comics. There’s about two dozen trades included in that number which I should probably move over to my book list but for now I’ve settled with sorting them to the bottom of my comics list.

Gamebooks

I have 39 unread gamebooks, with Tin Man Games’ Gamebook Adventures and Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf accounting for more than half of the list. I have two that I recently got from Kickstarter projects that I’ve put at the top, since I’d like to do reviews of them: Maelorum and Holdfast. After those two, I need to finish Trial of the Clone and Judge Dredd: Countdown Sec 106, then the Destiny Quest series (before Michael Ward get’s the third one out), then I’m going to focus on the GA series followed by LW, then Fighting Fantasy, Fabled Lands, and some Tunnels and Trolls solitaire RPG modules.

Like my book list, I don’t think I’ll get through all of my game books this year, but if I can get through the Kickstarters, Destiny Quests, and Gamebook Adventures then I’ll be happy.

Movies and TV

Compared to the others, well everything is small compared to my book list, this is a tiny one. This list is kind of hard to count because of the TV series on it. Should the first two seasons of the remastered Star Trek: The Next Generation count as one entry or two or should I count each episode?

Regardless, I have six movies I need to catch up on first: Amazing Spider-Man, The Wolverine, Dark Knight Rises, Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3, and X-men First Class. After that will be the last episode of Eureka, Batman: Gotham Knight, and then I’m going to start my Blu Ray TV rewatches. I’m planning to watch the entire Farscape series plus the Peacekeeper Wars, then the remastered Next Gen seasons, then Enterprise, and lastly Firefly.

Video Games

I tried to keep my video game list as short as possible since my primary goal is to get through more books this year, so this list of mostly of games to finish. On my Xbox 360 that means finishing up Batman Arkham Origins which I got for Christmas and am about 40% done with and then going back Mass Effect 3 and finally finishing the last three DLC’s. For PC, I need to finish Shadowrun Returns (hopefully before the Berlin expansion comes out) and then the two recent Kickstarter games Banner Saga and Broken Age. After that I want to finish Game of Dwarves and then start XCOM: Enemy Unknown.

For 2014

Games

Of the MMO releases planned for 2014, Elder Scrolls Online is the only one that I’m planning to buy and play at launch. I expect to have fun for a few months before moving on to something else. I’ll be extremely surprised if I’m still playing by December. I’ve had very little interest in Wild Star so far and don’t plan to get it, although I can’t guarantee I won’t get swept up in the excitement when it releases.

Outside of MMOs, it’s looking like a crowdfunding year for me. Star Citizen, Shadowrun Online, the expansion for Shadowrun Returns, Broken Age, Banner Saga, Massive Chalice, and Planetary Annihilation. I’ve backed all of these games some of which are releasing and others are still being developed, but it’s been fun watching the process for each of these games.

Resolutions

Unlike the last two years, I’m not making any resolutions or setting any goals related to blogging. I’m sure when I have something to say or share that I’ll get the itch to post, and I’d rather approach it that way than trying to set it up as a second job. The only writing goals I’m setting for myself this year are my plans to do an outline and first pass edit of A Wizard’s Life in March. I want to see how that goes before I decide anything else.

Besides from MarchEditingMonth, my resolution for 2014 is to make lists. 

I read nine books last year. Nine. That’s embarrassing to me. I have thought of myself a reader since I was eight years old, so it was a shock when that email arrived from GoodReads congratulating me on finishing nine books. This made me realize that I’m very good at acquiring content but not at actually consuming it.

I have a set of bookshelves that is full of books to read, and I have two more stacks on the floor plus stuff on my Kindle. I have movies I got for Christmas in 2012 that I still haven’t watched, not to mention the ones I got this year. I have backlogs of comic books, game books, Xbox games, and Steam games. I have half a dozen starship models that need to be assembled and painted. I still haven’t watched the series finale of Eureka or the Farscape Peacekeeper Wars movie.

So I’ve started making lists so that I can see just how much stuff I have and more importantly I can start to prioritize it. Unless I learn to speed read or stop time, there’s no way I’ll be able to read everything sitting on my shelves, but I can pick fifty books and make a dent in it. I can certainly catch up on a dozen TV shows and movies. My video game backlog doesn’t bother me nearly as much, but I’m going to make a list anyway and make sure that finally finishing the Mass Effect 3 DLC is near the top.

While looking up last year’s resolutions post, I was surprised that I made a similar lists resolution in relation to finishing games and writing projects. So apparently I had zero follow through on that. Still, I think this year will be different because of the habits and tricks I picked up during November’s successful NaNoWriMo run. I’m using my phone to block out time daily and set nagging reminders to stay on track. It’s not exactly the same as having the social pressure, but making lists of books to read and movies to watch isn’t as difficult either.

Looking Back at 2013

What a weird year 2013 has been. I started the year looking forward to several MMOs none of which lasted. City of Stream imploded, Defiance and Neverwinter both fizzled for me, and Elder Scrolls Online didn’t release. Defiance turned out to be the least social MMO I’ve ever played, and add to that the bugginess of the interface after launch, and I lost interest after the first month or two. I’m still not sure why Neverwinter didn’t click for me, I was very excited for the game and really enjoyed the demo I played, but somehow I shifted from mostly playing to mostly doing offline crafting to not doing anything. This year was also the first time I didn’t buy the Lord of the Rings Online expansion, and even now I’ve not logged in to try out the class changes that came along with Helm’s Deep. I just didn’t have that moment of nostalgia this time around like I did when Isengard was being released.

Star Trek Online was the only MMO I played regularly this year, and I think that this past year was probably STO’s best year to date. Romulans have always been one of my least favorite non-Federation factions, so when Cryptic announced their expansion plan at the beginning of the year I was ambivalent. I did get excited though after I got a change to try some of the new Romulan content on Tribble. Cryptic really hit a home run with the mission content for Romulan characters and the upgraded tutorial missions for the Klingons, so much so that updating the Federation tutorial became a priority. I was very surprised that Cryptic had decided to add a new faction but allowing them to ally with either the Federation of Empire allowed people to play as Romulans without further splintering the PvP community, as well as fitting with existing canon. Then in the second half of the year with the Season 8 update and the incredible visuals of getting to fly my ship inside a Dyson Sphere. I’ve enjoyed the space adventure zone much more than the ground zone of New Romulus, and I’ve especially enjoyed the more streamlined and far grindy Dyson reputation. I’m hoping that Season 9 includes a redesign of the other reputations along the same lines.

Besides STO my other main game this year has been modded Minecraft. I started with the Direwolf20 pack from Feed the Beast but eventually moved on to making my own mod pack in order to stay on the most current releases of Minecraft and mods as possible. I haven’t tried yet, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to enjoy playing standard Minecraft again. I enjoy designing and building automated systems too much, and exploring the different magic systems, alternate dimensions, and building with a wider array of cosmetic blocks than vanilla Minecraft provides. Minecraft has always been a favorite game of mine, but generally I’d always get to a point where I was bored with a map and move on to something else. Having mods available changes that. Minecraft is always changing now as mods add new features or new mods become available, there’s always something to try, and starting over in a new world also means a chance to make big changes to which mods I’m using.

This year I’ve also added board/card gaming to my collection of hobbies. After going to GenCon and picking up Firefly, I realized that there were board games out there that would play well solo as well as in a group. Since October I’ve been spending a lot of time on BoardGameGeek and started collecting some games. Ironically, I’m playing board games now much the way I play MMOs. Solo. So far, in addition to Firefly I’ve picked up Space Hulk Death Angel, Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, Thunderstone, Marvel Legendary, and Pathfinder the Adventure Card Game.

My proudest achievement this year though has to be finally winning National Novel Writing Month. Not only has it motivated me to spend March doing a first revision but it’s heavily influenced my plans and resolutions for 2014.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 0-8-4

The second episode was better than the first. The various team members were all able to develop a little bit, and more importantly the team as a whole started to develop.

The most interesting thing to me about the episode was starting to understand the role Coulson is going to play in the series. He is arguably the star of the series, he is certainly the big draw for fans of the Marvel movies. I had assumed that in a S.H.I.E.L.D based series he would take more of a central role, but it seems like his role here is largely the same as it was in the movies. He is a midground character. He adds some humor and exposition and keeps the plot moving forward. Even though he’s quite capable, he voluntarily takes a secondary role in order to help his team find its legs.

 

 

**** Spoilers ****

My only complaints with the episode are the bit with Sky at the end and the Fury cameo after the credits.

While I’m glad that the Rising Tide subplot wasn’t dropped, but it felt a little cliched to me. I’m giving the writers the benefit of the doubt, until I see otherwise, but I’m hoping we don’t end up seeing the usual betrayal and change of heart scenes. I also hope this isn’t a subplot that’s drawn out over multiple seasons.

The Fury cameo really didn’t seem to fit in the episode at all. While it was cool to have Samuel Jackson make an appearance, the scene itself didn’t really add anything and the fish tank bit was goofy.

Joss and S.H.I.E.L.D.

I was reading the Entertainment Weekly interview of Joss Whedon while waiting on my wife to go to bed so I could have the TV and was reminded several times why I love his work so much, for example:

Is there anything from your previous TV experiences where you’re like, “Now I know this, therefore I’m doing it this way”?

Well, don’t work for Fox.

There’s more to that answer of course, but I had to stop laughing before I could read the rest of it.

As for the pilot episode of SHIELD, I loved it. It was everything I was hoping for. An interesting ensemble cast, some great cameos from both the Avenger’s movie and previous Whedon shows, and good dialog. I wasn’t quite sure what the special effects were going to be like given it’s a weekly TV series, but they were better than I expected and more numerous as well. Of course maybe they blew half their FX budget on the pilot but I really doubt that.

I’m really looking forward to watching the different characters develop during the next few episodes. One of the weak points of having an ensemble cast and less than 60 minutes of air time is you can’t develop all of them at once. The pilot focused on Sky, which makes the most sense since she’s an outsider so there’s a built-in reason to explain things to the audience.

Catching up: GenCon 2013

This year was my third time going to GenCon, but in a real sense it was my first time attending.

See, my previous two visits I would go down for a day on Saturday and spend most of my time wandering the main exhibit hall. I’d see a few cosplayers, buy a few role-playing books, and that was it. I didn’t spend time checking out new games or playing anything or checking out any of the events available.

This year I wanted to get the full experience. I took vacation days for Thursday and Friday so I could spend the day downtown without feeling bad about leaving my wife to handle Things One and Two solo, and I sat down one night to pick out a few events to sign up for each day.

This turned out to be a great year to finally commit to the experience too, as one of my favorite authors, Pat Rothfuss, was not only doing some writer’s panels but hosting an hour and a half talk on Friday evening. Plus Harebrained Schemes was doing panels on using the editor for Shadowrun Returns and also I found out shortly before the convention that they were going to be demoing their latest Kickstarter project Golem Arcana (which was quite a bit more fun than I expected it to be). In the end, I actually ended up scheduling too many things to attend and skipping a few in order to play some games and hang out with friends.

Speaking of which, I had a great time meeting some Twitter people this year. I spent quite a bit of time hanging out with Winin, walking the exhibit hall and trying out some games including the tile game he’s been developing. I also got to meet up with Ferrel and his wife and try out their Kickstarter card game, Havoc and Hijinks. It’s still going by the way, so if you like cute dragons and fun competitive card games where the person winning can change quickly, I recommend checking it out. It does end on the 24th though so you don’t have much time left.

Spending two full days at GenCon plus taking my oldest, who’s four years old, on Saturday really wiped me out. But it was a ton of fun. I’m really looking forward to going again next year, and I’m very excited for when my sons are old enough to really get the full experience. I’d love to make it to one of the PAXes and DragonCon someday as well.

GenCon Writers Panel