Archive for the ‘Rambles’ Category.

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.

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.

Delta Rising Debrief

Several dev blogs have come out in the last two weeks that I’m just now catching up on. My favorite new feature has to be Grapple Guns! While I would love to be able to use these anywhere, I really doubt that will be the case. None of the existing maps will have been developed with the idea that players can move in three dimensions. I actually wonder too if even for maps where grappling is intended to be used if it will be something where it can be used on any surface or only against specific attachment points. The latter case would be much safer from a development standpoint, but I really hope it’s not that limited.

More details are out on Intelligence Specialist Bridge Officers.  In space combat Specialists can go into a regular bridge seat that matches their profession or a universal one, but they can’t use their specialist abilities. There’s no restrictions for ground combat, which means even if you’re not in a Tier 6 with specialist seating, these new officers will still be valuable for away teams. Intelligence abilities will be thematically focused on debuffs, stealth, and crowd control. Some ground examples:

  • Feign disintegration and get a short term stealth effect, speed bonus, and ambush bonus.
  • Spawn a photonic decoy to draw enemy fire.
  • Tag an enemy at distance and initiate a site-to-site transport to bring them to you and disorient them briefly.

Space combat examples:

  • Fire an EM pulse probe that will travel towards a target disabling any intervening enemies and then explode damaging the target and any nearby enemies.
  • Evade target locks to give a massive accuracy debuff against an enemy and become untargetable by enemy torpedoes and mines.
  • Transport warhead will allow you to beam a torpedo directly onto an enemies bridge, bypassing shields and possibly knocking a system offline.

These are just a few that I liked, there are eleven ground and eleven space abilities described in the blog. As primarily a Science Captain, these look especially fun to me.

The new Kobali Adventure Zone is for players level 54 and higher. Similar to the Voth ground battlezone, for Kobali you beam down with two bridge officers. You can also team with other Captains without having to send your officers back to the ship, which you can actually do for the Voth mission as well if you wait until you’re in the battlezone before teaming up. Cryptic is promising that Kobali will be as scalable and team-friendly as the Voth ground zone while also allowing for a rich personal story-line. That sounds perfect if it works as advertised. While I enjoy the Voth ground map on occasion it does get repetitive quickly, despite how much dilithium you can earn doing it

Of course reputations are a given with any expansion or major update to the game now, and Delta Rising is no different.  The Delta Alliance Reputation will be added with the expansion and bring Delta Marks as the basic reputation currency along with Ancient Power Cells for equipment unlocks (or getting bonus dilithium ore). The reputation offers a four piece space set called Delta Alliance Assault (engines, shields, deflector, and warp/singularity core), a three piece space set called Delta Alliance Ordnance (console, polaron beam array or heavy cannon), and neutronic torpedo), and a three piece ground set called Delta Alliance Elite (combat armor, unimatrix shield, compression phaser rifle). All gear is listed as Mark XII, which seems odd given that the new maximum gear level is Mark XIV. Possible typo?

Nope. not a typo and there’s also a new Gear Upgrade System. So items will now have a leveling system called Tech Points. Once an item has enough to qualify for an upgrade a Basic, Improved, or Superior Tech Upgrade item can be used to upgrade it to the next Mark level. Basic Tech Upgrades will be available from vendors (or crafteD), while Improved and Superiors upgrades will be crafted only. Crafting recipes unlock at 5, 10, and 15 respectively, and the recipes won’t require dilithium. This seems to be intended to promote crafters putting them on the Exchange. The dilithium cost comes in when an upgrade is applied. Upgrades will use a similar slotting system to the revamped R&D system, so you’ll be limited to how many items you can upgrade at a time. Also the upgrade process will take a certain amount of real time to completed. It’s not mentioned but I assume you’ll be able to pay additional dilithium to speed that up just like you can with R&D projects.

There’s also a Research Point track for items, which I wasn’t so clear about from the blog that allows bumping up an item’s quality (common to uncommon, etc.). That doesn’t seem quite as important as bumping the Mark level up, and seems like it over complicates things. Of course until it’s in the game we won’t really know.

We’re finally starting to get some solid details about the expansion now. I expect Cryptic’s dev and PR arms to continue to get busier as we near the October release date.

Delta Rising Intelligence Ships Design

Yesterday, Cryptic posted a dev blog about the design process behind the ship design for the new Delta Rising ships. I’m not going to get into the whole debate of whether they’re Trek-like or not. That’s completely subjective. I will say I liked the thought process behind going for a visually cohesive set of ships designed around a set of themes.

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ea6f653a84709eff9d2361ef6103083a1410803753Of the three, I still like the tactical one the best. The nacelles look influenced by the Defiant design. I’m not totally sure about the swept back part, since I haven’t seen a side view, but it reminds me just a bit of Moya from Farscape which I’ve always loved. The blue lighting is great, although I prefer the grey hull material above to the dark material on the right.

dc3ae406801cc585115ed7afe8e4791a1410803795Unfortunately the science ship is still my least favorite of the three. It is nice to see that the open area in the hull can be filled in, having an open ring in the saucer section just doesn’t look good to me. My other issue is that the ship seems to be patterned after the Luna-class ships, like Riker’s Titan. Vaulyn - Recon Science VesselI’ve never liked the extra science pod that sticks out on top of these, although I did eventually get used to it when I flew a Recon Science Vessel. So, it’s possible that the design of the new science ship will grow on me. Pictures are nice, but nothing really compares to seeing it in the game and the ship customizer.

 

STO Fleet Nights

Sunday night was Fleet Night in Star Trek Online. I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to go. I had been playing Shadowrun: Crossfire all afternoon, and just barely losing, and I really wanted to keep at it until I finished a Crossfire mission. But it’s kind of bad when you don’t go to an event you’re organizing, besides having Fleet Nights was supposed to get me playing STO more regularly. So I logged in and figured if no one showed up then I’d go back to Shadowrun.

Scopique and Ocho were already one though and Mindstrike, Talyn, and Warren all showed up as well, so we ended up having a pretty good night. We plowed through the Crystalline Catastrophe and Azure Nebula Rescue, and then Defera Invasion hard missions (which were slightly more bugged than in previous weeks), and then finished the night with Undine/Voth space battlezone. It was a fun night. Ocho was just coming back to the game after an absence and we kind of pulled him straight into the fire with us, but he did fine.

So the Fleet Night experiment continues. For me at least, it’s doing exactly what I’d hoped by getting me to play more frequently.

Microsoft, Mojang, and Minecraft

So it is actually true. Microsoft bought Mojang for $2.5 billion.

When I first heard the rumors, my first reaction was there was no way they were true. Then they persisted with no response from Mojang or Notch, and I began to think they could be afterall. With the official news today confirming the rumor removing all doubt, my first reaction was dread and the neither the Mojang post linked above nor this one from Phil Spencer at Xbox make me feel any better. Both are to PR crafted for me to take anything from them about what’s ahead for Minecraft, Let’s Plays, and modding.

To be fair, even if they had come out with specific promises and plans, I wouldn’t be feeling much different. As the saying goes, talk is cheap. I and a lot of other Minecraft players, modders, and YouTubers will be watching closely to see what Microsoft actually does with the property. I hope that given the amount of money involved and their prior relationship with Mojang that Microsoft has plans in mind, but I’ve worked for too many companies where management made odd decisions (almost always due to internal politics) to assume that Microsoft has a real plan until I see it in action.

Just to be clear, I don’t hate Microsoft and I don’t think they’re evil. Corporations are neither good nor evil. Public corporations like Microsoft exist solely to make money. Which makes me wonder though if Microsoft sees the YouTube and modding communities as a valuable enough part of Minecraft to adjust their policies to accommodate both groups.

The best thing I’ve read today about this was Notch’s note about the sale. From the Minecraft documentary and interviews I’ve seen, I fully believe that last part of this post:

It’s not about the money. It’s about my sanity.

I’m glad he found a way to get out on his own terms and I wish him all the best going forward.

P.S. This sums things up nicely:

Screenshot_2014-09-15-15-12-09

Scattered Thoughts

The Adventure Co 2.0 met last night for its first real session. It went well, despite some technical hurdles with Roll20’s video and audio, plus most of us just being out of practice. Initial session’s are always awkward anyway (in my experience) because players don’t know each other’s characters well and usually aren’t into their own character’s head either. That will improve quickly as we get into the adventure. Regardless, it was a log fun doing some real role-playing again even if my poor Gnome Monk didn’t get to punch anything.

It’s rare that I get to be a proud Hoosier in geeky sense so I was pretty stoked to see that Indiana was number 9 on the list of states with the highest percentage of Star Trek fans.

On the board gaming front Handelabra just announced an October  16th release date for the Sentinels of the Multiverse: The Video Game. It’s a tablet app version of one of my favorite super hero card games. A common complaint about the card version is all of the book keeping you have to do. Sometimes, I like that as it slows down the pace of the game and can become more of a meditative exercise to keep all of the effects going on in mind. But other times, it would really be nice to just pick up a few heroes and go defeat Baron Blade, and it looks like Handelabra’s version will fit that niche perfectly.

Anyway, I’m off to relax and watch my copy of The Winter Soldier that arrived today.