Archive for the ‘Rambles’ Category.

Names

twitter bio

I abhor drama. I avoid getting involved in it unless it’s absolutely necessary, especially Internet drama. However, I also think names are extremely important. So when there’s four blog posts in me RSS this afternoon about the term Gamer, I can’t help but weigh in.

I don’t see every changing my Twitter bio. Well maybe I could remove the “lazy” part from writer/blogger if I keep up my Blaugust pace in September. But the “avid gamer” part I don’t see ever changing.

Calling myself a gamer refers to what I like to do with my free time. For a long time that that just meant video games. Initially it was only console games, then for a long time it was only PC games, and then it became both. In recent years that’s expanded to include tabletop games as well: card games, board games, miniatures, and role-playing games with actual pencils and papers and polyhedral plastic dice. Those are all just different types of games even if some are made of bits, some cardboard, and some plastic. So as long as I enjoy spending a good portion of my free time playing games, that label fits. If it picks up negative connotations because of stupid people doing stupid things, well that’s not a new thing. Being a gamer wasn’t considered a good thing when I was a kid either.

Times change and connotations fade. We’re living in a world where a movie made by a comic book publisher about a team of misfit criminals including a walking tree who (usually) only utters three words and a talking racoon has made about $277 million and is still going. Anything is possible.

Day 29 of Blaugust

Tier 5 Upgrades

Yesterday Cryptic released the one dev blog a lot of people have been waiting impatiently for, upgrading Tier 5 ships.

Upgrading is done via Zen through the C-store, for between $5 and $10 (subject to change as is all of the dev blog information). The upgrade is per ship but account wide, although I don’t seem many people flying the same ship on different alts. T5 upgrades are free for special ships, basically anything that came from a reputation event, the lobi store, or a lock box.

Upgraded T5 ships only have four levels unlike the five for T6 ships. Just like T6 though the ships will scale up their hull and shields as they level. Since they don’t have the last level that T6′s do, they cannot unlock a Starship Trait. Of course if you have a T6 and unlock a trait you can still use it while flying a T5+ ship. T5+ ships also won’t have specialist bridge officer seating.

There’s a linked page with a list of all of the ships in the game along with whether they are upgraded for Zen for for free. What I found interesting about the page though was just seen how many ships are in the game now, and those are just the Tier 5 ships.

I’m still having a hard time getting worked up over the new ship tier and the upgrade process. Apparently I’m one of the few based on the 204 page forum thread regarding the upgrade post. T5+ ships won’t get the Starship Trait or specialized bridge officers, neither of which we have details on. There’s also this quote from the blog:

Only the most challenging new level 60 content will strongly benefit from using an upgraded Tier 5 starship or a Tier 6 starship, however it will not strictly require it.

The two bolded sections basically read to me that T6 ships will have an easier time, but are not required for any of the new content. For me, that means that I’ll likely stay with my current ship, a Vesta-class, unless I really like the look of one of the new T6 ships.

Picard Maneuver

Speaking of how many ships are in the game, add one more. The Constellation class is being added to STO. The most well known example of this class being the USS Stargazer, Jean Luc Picard’s first ship. This is C-Store ship that adds a new skin to the Heavy Cruiser Refit, a Tier 3 ship, along with a new console called the Warp Burst Capacitor. This emulates the Picard Maneuver, which involves a ship performing short duration a high warp acceleration directly towards another ship causing them to appear in two places at once. The STO console gives a brief  untargetable status, moves your ship forward a short distance, and gives you a short ambush attach bonus.

The console is nice enough that I think a some players will pay the 1000 Zen, $10, just to get that. Then there’s the ship collectors and role-players who’ll want it too. The majority of the player base isn’t going to buy ships right now anyway given that no one’s likely to buy new ships until the T6′s come out with Delta Rising. Personally I’m tempted by the console, but I don’t think I’ll get it unless I come up with a build where I think it will be handy.

Day 28 of Blaugust

Boardgame Appstravaganza

I’ve been spending quite a bit of time lately playing the app versions of board games. Especially a few of the competitive 2-player ones like Star Realms and Summoner Wars. I bought the Master Set for Summoner Wars at GenCon last year but never got a chance to play it, and I’d been eyeing the iTunes App Store jealously for months because Playdek had an app version of the game but wasn’t supporting Android until recently. Star Realms is one of the hot games right now, so when I found out about it no one had a copy in stock. While I was waiting on a restock to come in, I found that they had an app and shockingly it was available on Android and not on iOS yet. So I actually played Star Realms for a couple of weeks before my physical copy showed up while I was down at GenCon.

Star Realms is done in Unity, which is why was available for Android, iOS, Windows, and Mac. The original iOS delay was due to the normal Apple approval delay. For $5 you get access to the game on all four platforms and can play games against anyone regardless of what device they’re on. That’s a pretty good deal. Summoner Wars isn’t Unity, so supporting multiple platforms is a lot more work (or so I imagine). The app is free with in-app purchases to unlock additional factions, I went with a bundle that unlocked them all for $8, and have been enjoying the game a lot.

It appears that the board game apps trend is picking up more momentum. Paizo announced a partnership with Obsidian just before GenCon to bring their Pathfinder Adventure Card Game to devices. Fantasy Flight is developing a game based on Battlelore : Second Edition, a miniatures game I’ve wanted to get but haven’t because I knew I’d rarely get to play it. Czech Games is making an app version of Galaxy Trucker, and Handelabra Games is making a digital version of Sentinels of the Multiverse. Even cooler is that two of these games Battlelore Tactics and Sentinels of the Multiverse: the Video Game are already announce for both iOS and Android. The Pathfinder teaser site doesn’t say anything about platforms, but they were demoing the current prototype on iPads at GenCon, and the Obsidian person I talked to said it was being developed in Unity, so I expect it will come to Android as well. Czech Games has stated that they are developing for multiple platforms but are planning to release on iOS first and then other platforms.

While I do enjoy the analog experience of board games, it’s hard to beat the convenience of the app versions of games. Not only can I play with people regardless of location, I can have multiple asynchronous games going at once.

Day 27 of Blaugust

Delta Quadrant Developments

t6report It turns out my guess yesterday was pretty good about what the redacted Engineering Corp Report was. We got a little bit more detail today about Tier 6 ships. The additional bridge officer slot was to be expected along with the usual hull and shield points and additional console slot, but the new stuff sounds pretty good: Specialist Bridge Officer seats, Starship Mastery system, and Starship Traits.

The Specialist Bridge Officers have access to the normal abilities for either Tactical, Engineering, or Science depending on which profession they belong to. In addition they’ll have a access to a new Specialist pool of abilities. Unfortunately that’s all Cryptic is saying for now. The way the report is written suggests that there’s only one new pool of abilities, but I may be reading too much into it.

The Starship Mastery system is a little bit more interesting to me. Basically Cryptic is adding a level attribute to Tier 6 ships that will grow from 0 to 5 as Captains gain Skill Points. Gaining Mastery levels will unlock passive abilities which vary depending on the class of the ship. A Starship Trait will unlock at level 5 and if slotted into your Captain’s traits gives a powerful bonus regardless of whether or not you’re flying a Tier 6 ship.

Unfortunately that’s the extent of the details in the latest Dev Blog. This has become a theme so far where Cryptic unveils some new information about the upcoming expansion but only really provides an outline of what’s coming. I was starting to get a little frustrated at the trickle of information Cryptic is releasing until I saw the new expansion trailer.

This has gotten me excited again. I’m especially curious about what ship is at 0:57, and more importantly can I get my hands on one.

Unknown Ship in DR trailer at 57 seconds

Day 26 of Blaugust

Different Kinds of Excitement

Since becoming a parent, I’ve had to say and do a lot of things that I never thought I would ever say or do. For instance tonight I had to explain to my five year old that it doesn’t matter if he only pooped a little bit in the tub, he still has to get out of it so I can drain it and clean it. Fun times.

Star Trek Online

On a more fun note Captain Smirk, the Community Manager for STO teased this today:

Calling all Captains, this will be a big week for #STO so keep your com channels open! So much cool stuff is coming…

I can only guess that means there will be a bunch of dev blogs released. Hopefully with substantial details to placate and/or inflame the playerbase.

And after checking the STO site, there is indeed a Starfleet Operations Report posted. Most of the sections are marked redacted for now and lead to a “Coming Soon” page, but I like the LCARS-ish format they’ve been using for these posts. I’m not sure that the Engineering Core report would be, maybe something more about Tier 6 ships? There’s another Intelligence Briefing about a Delta Quadrant species. Hopefully it will be an exciting week in the no-drama no-forum rage sense of the word.

Adventure Co.

I got my copy of the D&D Player’s Handbook today for 5th Edition. I had actually already started  on my character but I’m not sure now. My first impulse was to make a Human Wizard, which is the same character I ran in our first campaign. My character in our aborted second campaign was a Goliath Warden, but the quick start rules I was using last night were pretty bare. Flipping through the book today, I’m leaning towards rolling a Gnome instead but either keeping the Wizard class or maybe going with Sorcerer. I’ve always loved magic-using classes.

Day 25 of Blaugust

Mondays and Shadowrun

Parenthood

  • Monday’s aren’t all bad.
  • Kids don’t have limitless energy, they drain it from their parents.

Home Ownership

One of the elusive achievements in home ownership has always been completing a repair or improvement project in one trip the to the hardware store. In twenty or so years of owning a home and somewhere over 40 projects undertaken, I have never managed to complete a project in exactly one trip to the store. Either I have to go back and get something additional, or I have to go back afterwards to return something I didn’t need.

This weekend I completed the very minor fix of replacing the toilet seat in the master bathroom. Probably about the simplest repair possible, but I’m counting it. I got a seat that matched in color, and that my wife was happy with when I got home. Neither of those are easy tasks.

Shadowrun: Crossfire

Crossfire Job CardLast night I got out my copy of Shadowrun: Crossfire to try a solo play. I had originally planned to try the Extraction job that’s included with the game since I’d seen it was geared for 1-4 players, but it is marked as advanced difficulty recommended for runners with 5 or more points in upgrades (more on that in a future post). So instead, I set up for the Crossfire job and planned to play with two runners.

My first play through started well enough but I ended up losing the just before the halfway point. I retried after swapping in a Troll for the Elf I was using for the second runner and going from a character with 4 hitpoints available to one with 9 made a massive difference, even if the Troll had a limited initial hand of cards.

I enjoyed the game, although not as much as I did the one I played at GenCon for the release event. Partly just because it is more fun with more player cooperation, and partly because we had a fifth person managing the game and teaching us the rules. I know I made a few mistakes last night and that always drives me nuts, even though it’s pretty much a part of the board gaming experience.

I’m planning a full impressions post sometime soon. I just really need to get a few more games in and get a better handle on the rules. In the meantime though, here’s a picture of the setup from the first game last night with a brief description.

Crossfire Solo Game LayoutOn the left side are the two runners I was using, a Human and an Elf. Each runner has two role cards, in a four person game each runner would have one role, and in a three person game one runner would have two roles. Next to the race and role cards are the runner’s draw deck and current hand. On the right side at the top are the six Black Market cards which can be purchased and added to a runner’s hand. As cards are bought, they are replaced from the Black Market deck. Below the Market are three more decks: Crossfire Events, Normal Obstacles (one bullet hole), Hard Obstacles (two bullet holes). Obstacles are dealt out to runners to defeat and Events are used to add additional hurdles to the game.

Day 24 of Blaugust

 

Back to the Virtual Table

D&D

Adventure Co. version 2 is going to start up soon™- okay I just took a quick break to find my original posts about our virtual D&D group’s adventures last year… and there aren’t any. So instead if you’re curious, Tipa at West Karana did some great writeups.

The short version is we had a small group playing D&D 4e using G+ Hangouts and Fantasy Grounds. It was a lot of fun. It did make me realize how rusty I was at doing actual role-playing. I hadn’t seriously done pen and paper gaming since high school, and the intervening decades of MMOs had really given me tunnel vision towards combat. I found myself feeling unsure anytime we were in a mostly interactive scene.

For this second round we’re going to use D&D 5e, Roll20, and we’ve got a few new people in the group. I’m pretty excited. I didn’t mind 4e at all, I’m pretty easy going about edition changes, but combats did seem to take a lot longer than I remembered. With the general talk about how streamlined 5e is, I’m hoping combats will go faster so we can get a little more done in each weekly session.

Fate

Between Adventure Co starting back up and seeing all of the role-playing going on at GenCon last week, I’m feeling motivated to start working on getting a group together online to play a game of Fate Core. Fate is very narrative and not crunchy. Characters, NPCs, and settings are all assembled from Aspects, Skills, and Stunts. There’s no gold pieces to track. Hit points are reduced to Stress and Consequences. My favorite part is that character and game creation is a group activity. It is a major shift in mindset from D&D, Pathfinder, or any of the other rulesets I’ve read, and I think it will be a lot of fun.

Day 23 of Blaugust

Firefly Online

FFO_bgrdFirefly Online (FFO) was announced over a year ago at 2013′s San Diego Comic Con. I watched the teaser video and got excited. Then I saw in the video description that is was a “multi-user, social online role-playing game that will initially be available for smartphones and tablets” and got depressed. I’ve kept a hopeful eye on it anyway, and over time the direction of the game seems to have changed dramatically. Or it could just be that someone really screwed up the original PR for the game.

IMG_20130723_132123One of the reasons why I kept an eye on the project, aside from sheer contrariness and masochism, was that QMx was listed as working on the project with Spark Plug Games. Quantum Mechanix has made a lot of really nice Firefly merchandise including the Serenity Little Damn Heroes Maquette that I have on my shelf. This gave me a little hope that the game would at least look good and be true to the series.

A game play article posted near the end of 2013 specifically called out the social tag as well as clarified that the game would be available on desktops, both of which helped allay my initial fears. Based on an article about persistent play, it actually looks like the mobile platforms will be for a limited subset of the game features. If the actually game works like the article outlines, it will actually be pretty nice and something that myself and many other players have been wanting for Star Trek Online’s Duty Officer system. It would be great to be able to manage Doff assignments from my phone rather than having to wait until I can log into the full game.

With the Big Damn Heroes announcement earlier this summer, I’m getting cautiously excited about the game. Spark Plug Games has already gotten voice work recorded by Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyk, Adam Baldwin, Ron Glass, and Sean Maher. At the time of posting Morena Baccarin, Jewel Staite, and Summer Glau were scheduled to come in. And Gina Torres is still getting the timing worked out. I really hadn’t expected SPG to get that kind of support for the game. It’s also interesting from a timeline that Ron and Alan are doing voicework.

The release date has been pushed back two quarters from summer 2014 (which is nearly over anyway) to spring 2015, so I’ll have a while longer to wait and see if my initial skepticism was warranted. I have to say though that I like that the release was pushed back. It says a lot about Spark Plug, QMx and Fox that they were willing to invest several more months into the project rather than just release with what they had and fix it afterwards. Not every development studio gets that kind of support.

Day 22 of Blaugust

On Tooth Fairies

The Tooth Fairy’s Midnight Mission

I thought having my oldest start Kindergarten would be the biggest milestone for a while. Seeing him get on the bus that first day certainly brought home how much he’s grown up. So I was unprepared for how much it hit me when he lost his first tooth last night.

Our normal nightly routine is I get the boys into PJs and brush their teeth, then my wife reads to them before bed. Last night he starts fusing when I brush his teeth and wants to spit the toothpaste out. This is a bad habit of his we’ve been working on so I keep going, then freak out a bit when he finally spits in the sink and I see blood before I realize he’s saying, “My tooth is gone!” Luckily I rescued the tooth before it was lost down the drain.

I was really surprised how much the whole thing got to me. I suppose it’s because it was unexpected, unlike starting school. Plus having a baby tooth come out is a biological thing versus starting school which is arbitrary based on a date (well somewhat depending on kids’ emotional maturity), and it really brought the whole “he’s growing up” thing home to me much more so than starting school did.

All in all an interesting night last night. Thankfully the tooth fairy’s covert midnight mission was successful.

Parenting and Fear

For forty years I’ve been a heavy sleeper. Literally forty years. According to my mom I was sleeping through the night from the first day they brought me home, until my sister was born three years later she thought other mom’s were whiners.

As a habitual over-snoozer, I’ve gotten used to being late in the morning. At least until my oldest started school. For the last three weeks I’ve been keeping a paranoid eye on the clock on the evenings to make sure time doesn’t get away from me and I get to bed before midnight so I won’t oversleep in the morning. The fear of screwing up your kid’s life provides an amazing amount of motivation. Not that being late would be that horrible, but I don’t see any reason to pass on my bad habits.

Day 21 of Blaugust

Perks of being a Fleet Admiral

The Path to Level 60 in Star Trek Online

Cryptic released the first of many, I assume, dev blogs regarding the Delta Rising expansion. This one deals with raising the level cap from to 60 from 50, Admiral to Fleet Admiral ranks. Before I get into it, I just wanted to mention how much I’ve enjoyed the LCARs formatting they’ve added to most of the blogs recently. It’s the small touches like this that add so much to the game experience.

A new Specialization Tree system is going to be added, with captains awarded 1 point per level after 50. This doesn’t stop at level 60 but continues to award points every time enough skill points are accumulated that you would have earned another level. So theoretically you’ll eventually be able to max out all your Specialization Trees. The blog doesn’t say what the curve looks like for skill points per level or if the curve flattens out after 60, nor are there any specifics on the Specializations yet.

I’m think the Specializations sound interesting. I like that Skill Points will stop converting to Expertise. I believe I have about 5 million points of that unused by now (after checking I actually have 6.1 million), so it’s not like Expertise is in demand once you get your Bridge Officers’ skills figured out. There’s not enough detail here yet though to get excited about.

Jasyla’s Gaming Questionaire, Part Two

With STO news out of the way, here’s questions 11-21 from Cannot Be Tamed:

11. Describe your perfect video game.

Highly customizable character, great story, smart dialog, combat and puzzles that gradually get tougher and prepare you for the challenges that follow.

12. What video game character do have you have a crush on?

Tali’Zorah

13. What game has the best music?

My favorite game soundtrack, at least recently, has been the one for Planetary Annihilation from Uber.

14. Most memorable moment in a game:

There’s more I’m sure, but the first one that popped into my head was wandering into the Lone Lands in the Lord of the Rings Online and seeing Weathertop for the first time.

15. Scariest moment in a game:

Nothing comes to mind, I don’t play horror games though.

16. Most heart-wrenching moment in a game:

Mordin’s final scene in Mass Effect 3.

17. What are your favourite websites/blogs about games?

That’s what blogrolls are for! :)

18. What’s the last game you finished?

I think it was Dishonored. Since I play a lot of MMOs and Minecraft, I really can’t finish many of the games I spend time on.

19. What future releases are you most excited about?

Star Crawlers and Last Life are two games that I backed on Kickstarter that I’m excited to see come out (and hopefully do well). BioWare’s new Shadow Realms looks interesting but there’s hardly enough known yet to warrant excitement.

If I could pick any game that’s been announced as in development and have it magically done and released tomorrow, I’d go for the next Mass Effect game that’s in the works. Looking at my answers today and yesterday I apparently have Mass Effect on the brain, no clue as to why that is.

20. Do you identify as a gamer?

Absolutely. I’ve taken some crap about that in the past, normally from co-workers saying it seems like a waste of time, more than once they’ve said this after talking about watching football all weekend on the couch.

21. Why do you play video games?

The same reasons why I read books: entertainment, escapism, and mental stimulation.

Day 20 of Blaugust