Online Boardgaming

lotr_octgn_02Blaugust 2015 Day 22

Last night I played Lord of the Rings: The Card Game by Fantasy Flight online with Wininoid using OCTGN. OCTGN is a platform for playing card games online, and LotR support is provided by another developer here.

We attempted to complete the second quest in the game which is Journey Along the Anduin. Winin used a full Tactics (red) deck which is very damage oriented, while I used a Spirit/Lore deck which was focused on questing and healing. In the quest, you start out facing a Hill Troll and have to defeat it to move onto the second of three stages. We got good cards and managed to complete quest progress on the first stage and defeat the Hill Troll pretty quickly. The second stage started out well but some bad cards both on our part and from the encounter deck, cost us one of Winin’s heroes (each player has three) and really hamstrung what we could do.

Eventually we lost the game. I’d like to say it was a close thing, and we might have been able to clear the second stage had we had another round or so, but there’s no way we’d have been able to complete the whole quest. This was the first time either of us had used OCTGN, so it was a little rough getting started. The UI for the application relies heavily on pop-up menus and shortcuts, which took a while to get used to, but by the end of the game we had a pretty good handle on it. But UI issues aside, the program worked well. I’m sure we’ll be using it for more games of LotR as well, definitely a rematch against Anduin after we tweak our decks, as other games like Android: Netrunner.

D&D Night

Blaugust 2015 Day 21

No gaming last night or tonight, the multitasking experiment will resume tomorrow. Instead last night was my regular D&D (5th edition) night with Scopique DMing and four others from Twitter in the party, he’s posted the recap for last night’s session if you’re curious about our latest shenanigans.

Virtual D&D is nearly as much fun as the regular kind. We use Google Hangouts for group video and voice along with Fantasy Grounds as our virtual tabletop. Honestly the only thing I really miss about physically getting together is getting to roll actual dice. Not that real dice treat me any better that virtual ones do.

My character for our current campaign is a Gnome Monk name Elrryn Leafwind. I generally don’t play melee characters in RPGs, but I decided I wanted to mix things up. Which is funny since after the first few sessions I realized that I had picked the melee version of a Wizard. The first two levels were not super fun, Elrryn wasn’t all that useful in a fight except as auxiliary damage. By level three Monk’s get Ki points and some of its first signature abilities. As an example, in one of the first sessions after making level three deflect missiles let Elrryn catch a crossbow bolt shot at him by a Kobold and then throw it back killing his attacker. One of the most bad-ass moments I’ve ever had for a character in an RPG.

Tonight’s plan is for some Lord of the Rings: The Card Game with Wininoid over OCTGN, which is an online card game client.

Jool Mission Planning

Jool Explorer 1Blaugust 2015 Day 20

Rather than suffer the vagaries of a d4, I loaded up Kerbal Space Program last night. It’s kind of cheating on my multitasking experiment as KSP has basically been my primary game since October. Regardless, I spent the evening in the Vehicle Assembly Building working on my first Kerballed mission to Jool, which is the second most remote planet in the Kerbol system and the only gas giant. This isn’t my first trip to Jool, I’ve sent dozens of satellites and probes to survey Jool’s five moons, but it will be the first time I send Kerbals.

In my current career game I have a life support mod installed, so unlike in the stock game, I actually have to make sure I send enough supplies along to keep my Kerbals fed for the duration of the trip, which will take about 2 years travel out, 3 or 4 more waiting on a return windows, and another 2 back. Which is why there are four supply canisters and two greenhouses for recycling.

The current weight of the ship is nearly 100 tons, so I’ll have to send it into orbit in at least two pieces, which I don’t mind doing as I’ve practiced rendezvous and docking quite a bit. I think I’ve managed to build everything into the ship I wanted for the primary craft. The next step is to figure out a small lander so I can actually put a Kerbal on one or more of Jool’s moons.

The trick with all of this is to try and keep the part count as low as possible. Large part counts of 150 or more cause the game to lag down massively on my machine. The game is still playable, but it’s not much fun. This is my only complaint with Kerbal Space Program. I would love to be able to build and assemble large space stations and interplanetary ships, but part count lag takes a lot of the fun out of the process.

Outage Hiccup

Blaugust 2015 Day 19

The second evening of my multitasking experiment started well enough, I launched Star Trek Online and hopped into the game. After handling my usual duty officer scheduling, I headed to the Delta Quadrant to finish a long pending mission to help out the Kobali. I think the Kobali ground zones have gotten tougher as I died several times trying to get to my goal. I ended up succeeding by making a run across the map so that I respawned on the other side after dying, it’s kind of cheap but I was feeling more goal oriented than exploratory. In the end it didn’t matter because shortly after that my game disconnected, which happens when your cable modem has an outage.

So that was the end of my gaming for the night. It was near midnight anyway, so I headed to bed early (for me). I briefly considered KSP or Champions but I wasn’t in a good jumping in point in either one. In KSP I’m at the point where I need to start planning a new mission, and that will take a while to do, and in Champions I want to roll a new hero to relearn the game. I could and have spent multiple hours in the costume creator trying to put together a name, costume, powers combination.

That puts me in an odd spot for tonight’s gaming. Do I pick STO back up since my time was cut short? Or roll on to one of the other games in the experiment. I’m not sure what I’m going to do, maybe I’ll roll a 1d4 to decide.

Back to Middle-Earth

Blaugust 2015 Day 18

I started my multitasking experiment last night by logging into LotRO. I had actually been in just the week before to make sure that all of my characters had recent activity so I wouldn’t lose names when the server merged closed, so I didn’t have to wait long on the patched. The game still takes a while to actually connect in, which is annoying and familiar, but pretty soon I was back at a camp in eastern Dunland.

Brynulf is a Hunter. At some point previously I had cleaned up his inventory and quest log, so all I really had to do to get him playable was re-select his specializations and reassign points to legacies on his Legendary Items. About fifteen minutes and I was set to resume some long forgotten quests. Even though there were some new abilities and the specialization tree had changed dramatically from what I remember, actually playing my Hunter was not too different. The biggest change was that focus points used to go away the moment your character moved, and they don’t now. Or at least not as quickly. I’m honestly not quite clear on that yet, I was more interested in playing than spending time studying. The same skill combos worked well, and I fell into my old combat patterns pretty quickly: generate focus, big double attack, focus attack, DoT, quick shot, melee to regenerate some focus, focus attack again, finish with melee if needed.

I completed a half dozen quests and moved down to what I think is the last quest hub in Dunland before moving into the region around Isengard. I’m excited to see it, but that’ll have to wait until tomorrow given the rules on my experiment. I’m not sure if I’ll do Star Trek, Champions, or Kerbal tonight. Probable STO or KSP, with Champions I want to start a new hero so my first play session will mostly just be in the character creator and I’m not quite in the right creative frame of mind for that.

Multitasking

Blaugust 2015 Day 17

I’ve been thinking more since my post on reconnecting about trying to get back to juggling multiple MMOs. I definitely don’t want to drop Star Trek Online, but my nostalgia for both LotR and Champions has stayed with me the last couple of days. That surprises me as I usually have an urge to catch up on a game and often don’t get more than five minutes into the game after updating the patcher. My problem though is how to actually switch between games. I’ve found two ways that work for me when I want to get something done. Either I have to do it everyday, like with Blaugust, or I have to focus on one thing until it’s done, which is how I completed all three Mass Effect games.

Since MMOs never finish so unless I want to pick concrete goals out that won’t work.  I also can’t try to rotate through all three MMOs on a daily basis, that seems like a good way to get nothing done in any of them. I could make a schedule and rotate through games, but that is probably will do a better job of sucking the fun out of playing than anything else. Instead I’ll leave myself open to playing whatever sounds good on a given night but limit myself to picking from the games that I haven’t play in the last 24 hours, until I’ve spent long enough in one game to finish a quest or level. So that way as I progress through Champions or LotRO, I can still pick up dailies in STO if I want to, but only if I’m actually playing other games.

And since there’s no time like the present, I’m going to pay a visit to Brynulf on Landroval and get my hunter ready to go adventuring.

Almost There

Blaugust 2015 Day 16

Guilt and Joy

About two or three Saturdays a month since March, I’ve been heading down to my local gaming store and playing Golem Arcana. Usually I feel a little guilty because I’m gone for about five hours and leaving my wife to deal with Thing 1 and Thing 2 solo. This weekend though, my dad was taking Ting 1 for the day, and Thing 2 is much easier to handle without his older brother winding him up. So I was able to have a nice guilt-free wargaming visit yesterday.

I got three games in, didn’t win any off them but they were still fun. Afterwards while we were packing up and chatting I realized that everyone was thrilled to be there and playing. It seemed like a stark contrast to what I usually see in MMO forums and chat.

So far the only downside to being part of an active group is that it has finally pulled me into using Facebook regularly. I’ve had an account for years but used it very little, like nearly never.

Blaugust Midpoint

August is now half gone, and while I’ve had a few days that were tough for me to get something written overall I’ve been totally happy with my writing. I have seen posts from some people that aren’t joining the event or have already dropped out. It’s understandable. I’ve certainly considered it myself a few times, especially when I sit down and think I’ve got nothing to say. But for me, that’s really the point of this. I start writing and after getting a few hundred words of drivel out of the way, something usually comes out that I didn’t realize that I’d been thinking about. I find that experience pretty cool.

So if you’re participating and worried you run out of steam now that we’re halfway through, I think you should look at it as a good thing. It’s a chance to see what happens when you sit down and just start typing. Even if you don’t actually post it.

 

Reconnecting

Blaugust 2015 Day 15

There are currently 10 different MMO game launchers on my desktop, or technically 13 since the Arc launcher covers three games (Star Trek, Champions, Neverwinter) and Glyph has two (Rift and Defiance). Out of that list of 13 games, Star Trek Online is the only one I’ve played with any regularity this year. Most like Marvel Heroes and Firefall I occasionally get an urge to jump into, but there’s only two that I get nostalgic about and am considering trying to reconnect with: LotRO and Champions.

Lord of the Rings Online was my first ever lifetime subscription purchase. It was the first game that I ever hit max level with a character. As a Tolkien fanatic, it’s probably the closest I’ll ever get to walking in Middle-Earth without taking a trip to New Zealand. Sadly though the game’s graphics haven’t aged well, especially the character animations which were always the weakest part of the game. Every time I log into Landroval, it seems like I spend a couple of hours reassigning refunded specialization points and legendary item points, before playing for a little bit and then logging out for another long absence.

The recent server closure announcement has me wondering if I should refocus on the game if for no other reason than to get my main/original launch character, Brynulf, back to max level. Head south and see Isengard and Rohan at least once.

Champions seems to be mostly on maintenance mode now. Perfect World isn’t really pushing the game even within their own launcher. Arc’s Games tab currently has eight games rotating through, both Star Trek and Neverwinter are the first two and Champions isn’t even in the list. Most of the news on the site is about sales and lock boxes. The one piece of news that is content related mentions revamping the event system to make sure that they are more regular running.

Despite all that, I have a lot of fondness for the game. While City of Heroes was my first super hero MMO, I never liked how powers were restricted by archetype. Champion’s free-form system was so much more interesting to me because I could more easily make thematic builds. Truth be told, I also like the graphics better in Champions, which I didn’t expect to originally. I’ve tried a few times before to get back into the game, but always by picking up on of my current characters, and it’s never worked out. Too many systems in the game have changed to jump back into the middle of things.

So, if/when I do try next, I’m going to roll up a new hero and see if I have better luck.

Background Noise

Blaugust 2015 Day 14

Background Noise

I am orders of magnitude more productive at work if I’m listening to music or podcasts. It provides a consistent distraction that I can then ignore while focusing on whatever programming issue I’m trying to solve, instead of all of the sporadic background conversations going on in the office. I can’t stand having music or anything else on when I’m reading though. It’s the same for TV and movies, I don’t do the whole second screen thing of live tweeting shows or looking up things. When I’m watching a show, I’m focused solely on that. Video games vary depending on what I’m doing. If I’m playing Kerbal Space Program or Minecraft, I generally always have something playing on my second monitor, often it will be a Let’s Play of the same game. With Star Trek Online, I like to watch old episodes on Netflix, but only if I’m playing combat heavy missions like patrols or queues. If I’m playing a featured episode or Foundry mission that’s story heavy, then it’s like reading or TV for me and I can’t have anything else going on.

Back in the Command Chair

Speaking of Star Trek Online, I’m coming back from a sort of break from the game. I say sort of, since I’ve still been logging in fairly regularly, but usually only for a few minutes which is long enough to complete some Duty Officer missions and queue up some new ones. But with Season 10.5 out now, regular monthly Featured Episodes being released, and Season 11 on the horizon, it felt like now was a good time to get back in. Coming back to any MMO after an absence is tough, especially if a lot of changes have been taking place in the game, so I wanted to give myself some time to get back up to speed. Hopefully the other members of my fleet will start showing up more regularly over the next few weeks as well.

 

Modded KSP

kerbalengineer02Blaugust 2015 Day 13

As much fun as stock Kerbal Space Program game is for me, it is even more fun with mods. Some of the core mods that I don’t like to play without just to give better information. The stock game expects players to experiment and play through try-fail cycles, but I’m more of a planner than a pantser.

The first mod I ever installed and still my top must have is called Kerbal Engineer Redux. It add lots of information to the Vehicle Assembly Building, the Space Plane Hangar, and to in-flight craft. The most important number is the deltaV, which is literally the amount of change in velocity a craft has. A certain amount of deltaV is required to reach orbit around Kerbin, and more is required to transfer to the moons or other planets, not to mention entering orbit and landing. Basically anytime you try to move your craft to a different orbit, land, or take-off you are spending deltaV, so knowing how much you have on a rocket is great for planning a mission.

The second mod I picked up is called Chatterer. It doesn’t affect gameplay or visuals, it adds sporadic radio chatter between the Kerbal crew on your active craft with mission control. It sounds like a small thing, but it adds quite a bit of atmosphere to missions. It’s not really a must have mod, but it’s gin nevertheless.

I keep a full list on this page, I’ll talk about a few of the parts mods soon.