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.


Hodgier and Podgier

Blaugust 2015 Day 12

I enjoyed writing yesterdays’ disjointed rambling, and decided to do it again. Enjoy.

Fox’s Law

Murphy’s Law states, anything that can go wrong will. I watched a pilot for an upcoming variation on the police procedural last night and really liked it. So in the storied tradition of Firefly and Almost Human, I’m sure it’ll be cancelled after the first season. There’s also a high probability that episodes will be aired out of order.

Amateur Appreciation

Swimming competitively even though it was only at the high school level has immensely helped my appreciation for and understanding of Olympic swimming events. Even though the athletes competing were operating at a level far beyond me, my background still let me notice things that others watching didn’t see. Similarly after playing KSP, I feel like I get a lot more out of watching rocket launches than I did before. I know what a lot of the terminology means, and have a basic grasp of the difficulty involved.

One the other side of that though, watching the ISS spacewalk earlier this week really brought home how complicated even basic activities are. Listening to all of the steps involved in just “stepping outside” and cleaning some windows was really incredible.

Silver Linings

I was listening to a podcast while at work today that covers Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series. They were discussing the short-lived SciFi (at the time) TV adaptation and spent most of the podcast talking about how awful it was. While they did make some good points, I thought they missed one crucial good thing about the show. It brought a lot of fans to the books that may not have known about it otherwise.

In 2007 I was a fantasy snob, I only read high or epic fantasy trilogies. I’d never read any urban fantasy. At the time I felt like mixing real world elements with fantasy was like putting pineapple on pizza (which should be illegal).

A commercial for the upcoming Dresden Files show peaked my curiosity though and when I saw it was based on a book series I decided to order the first one and check it out rather than wait for the TV pilot to air. The book showed up a few days later and a few days after that I finished it, and loved it. I ordered the next three or four that were available and had caught up on the series within a month. So not only did the show get me into the books, but it got me into the urban fantasy genre, and two of my favorite authors: Jim Butcher and Patricia Briggs.


Hodge Podge

Blaugust 2015 Day 11

I’m feeling a scattered tonight and figured I’d just shotgun some random thoughts rather than try for any kind of coherency. Enjoy.

Kerbal Space Program

Kerbal Space Program definitely provides Civ and Minecraft moments. Just finished a mission, “That went well, what time is it? Oh it’s after midnight, I’ll just plan out this next mission then go to bed.” Three missions later… “What time is it? Oh it’s almost 3 am, I need to go to bed immediately.”

One of the few downsides to KSP is that it’s limited to 32-bit because the 64-bit version of Unity it runs on isn’t stable on Windows. For the stock game this isn’t much of an issue, but it causes problems once you get into modding the game. I’ve several times had to start pruning parts from the game because I had so many mods installed the game was becoming unstable.

Tools Inheritance

When my grandfather passed away, my dad inherited grandpa’s sizable tool collection and home-made workshop cabinets. When my dad sold his house to RV full-time, I inherited them. Looking through the drawers makes me feel like one of the monkeys from the start of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Not only do I not know how to use some of these tools, I kind even identify what some of this stuff is.


I’m not a competitive person. I suppose that comes from having little to no athleticism as a kid. So I feel very lucky that I ended up with such a friendly group to play Golem Arcana with. Even though it is a competitive game, and everyone likes to win, there’s no cutthroat behavior. Everyone’s more interested in losing a good game than winning on a technicality or poor play. We’re all in the habit of suggesting moves, pointing out missed opportunities (when there’s still time for the other player to capitalize on it), and sharing strategies and builds.

MunNet Scramble

Blaugust 2015 Day 10

It was a perfect launch, the rocket was gorgeous.

KSP 2014-11-06 18-50-16-51


Watching the fairings fall away as the vehicle left the atmosphere to reveal four communications satellites nestled snugly had me grinning like a Kerbal. I’d sent two of my brightest, if not bravest, Kerbalnauts to complete the deployment of my new MunNet. These communications relays were needed to support a pair of mapping satellites that were going to be used to pick a spot for my first Mun colony. After breaking atmo, the craft made a burn that put it on a transfer orbit to Mun and then Mission Control moved on to other things while the mission made the trip to Mun. Everything looked perfect.

KSP 2014-11-06 18-58-47-81

After the rocket transitioned from Kerbin’s sphere of influence to Mun’s and made an orbital insertion which put it in a perfect circular, equatorial, orbit at 275 kilometers. The mission was on track and everything was great until it came time to inspect the launcher assembly. At some point between the initial inspection after leaving Kerbin’s atmosphere and arriving at Mun, the relay satellites had shifted. My first thought was to send a Kerbal on EVA and fix them. Except these satellites had no decouplers on them, and couldn’t be detached from the launcher platform. Even had the satellites not shifted into a scrambled mess during the trip there would have been no way to actually launch them.

KSP 2014-11-07 13-36-44-62~01

So while the KSC engineers fought over whose fault it was, operations built a new craft making sure to add the missing decouplers. This second mission was given to the legendary Kerbalnaut Jebediah Kerman to make extra sure it went right, while the first mission out in Mun orbit jettisoned the entire satellite launcher platform (that decoupler had been included) before making a deorbit burn to return to Kerbin.

On the second mission, Jeb left the fairings intact for the transit to the Mun as a precaution, so no one knew until they reached Munar orbit and blew the fairings open whether the satellites were intact this time. When all four satellites appeared undamaged and ready for use, the cheers from the tracking station could be heard all the way across the KSC at the administration building.

Mission Control got a little busy when the initial launch returned mid-way through the MunNet deployment. Unfortunately the ill-fated first mission had one more surprise. Mission commander Kelfin waited too long to jettison the orbiter’s engine before landing and managed to hit a fuel tank next to the VAB.

KSP 2014-11-07 22-33-22-41



It was a one in a million shot, but the repairs are still coming out of his salary.

KSP 2014-11-10 17-26-59-90


As always check out the Blaugust Initiate Page if you’re interested in joining the blog-every-day fun.

Kerbal Space Program

Blaugust 2015 Day 09

KSP launcher screenI bought Kerbal Space Program in November 2013 during a sale, played for maybe half an hour, decided it was “popular but not for me”, and moved on to something else. Fast forward almost a year to October 2014 when I saw a Let’s Play video by Bevo, one of the YouTubers that I follow for Minecraft videos. He was showcasing KSP’s Career Mode and it looked like exactly what I needed for the game to click. I’ve been assuming that Career Mode wasn’t in the version I’d originally tried, but in researching for this review I found out that the KSP wiki says otherwise. Armed with better information, my second foray into KSP was much more fun. Career Mode added just enough progression and guidance to the base sandbox to really hook me. Steam has my current playtime at 807 hours.

KSP 2015-05-29 21-49-48-52In case you’ve not heard of it yet, Kerbal Space Program is about launching rockets into space. The game provides three modes: sandbox, science, and career. It also allows each game to be customized to adjust the difficulty at each level.

Sandbox mode is the original version of the game. All of the parts in the game are available for use and all of the buildings in your Kerbal Space Center are fully functional. There are no limitations on what you can do, but there’s also no guidance either. It’s a full sandbox experience, which usually leave me bored after a few hours, but may be right up your alley.

KSP 2015-05-22 01-07-37-01Science mode takes sandbox and applies some limitations. Your space center is still fully upgrades and ready for use, but not all of the parts are available. Instead you have to accumulate science by sending rockets into orbit, to the local moons, and to other planets and running experiments, collecting surface samples, planting flags, or just taking crew reports. Science points are spent in the Research and Development center to unlock node in the technology tree, each node unlocked adds one or more parts to what can be used in the Vehicle Assembly Building or Space Plane Hangar.

KSP 2015-01-21 12-08-14-87Career mode takes science mode and adds even more limitations. First career mode add two more resources: funds and reputation. Also you KSC starts out only partially functional. Your VAB and SPH have limits on the number of parts in a vehicle they can build, your launchpad and runway have weight limits on how big of a craft they can launch, and so forth. The Administration building offers contracts which provide recourse when completed, and also give players goals to accomplish. Building and launching a rocket in career mode requires funds, which you need to balance against the payoff of the contract you’re building the ship to complete.

While Kerbal Space Program is much different from Minecraft, they both fulfill a few of the same basic needs in my gaming life. They are both sandbox games with some progression elements. They both encourage creativity and exploration. Where KSP excels over Minecraft, for me, is in providing more configurability. In Minecraft, if you don’t want to deal with monsters there’s a peaceful setting, but that also disables the hunger mechanics. In KSP if you don’t want to deal with funds but you don’t want to deal with the entire parts catalog at once you can always use science mode.

Both games also have really large and vibrant modding communities that add a lot of functionality to their respective games. Minecraft’s developer Mojang however has always maintained an attitude of benevolent neglect. Mods have never been officially supported, and likely never will be. KSP developers Squad have taken the opposite path and embraced their mod community.  They have a “Modding Monday” feature on their blog, a mods section on their official forums, and they’ve hired/contracted in some of the more popular mod developers to add features to the stock game.

KSP 2015-06-18 01-55-07-27Aside from all of that, the thing I love the most about KSP is how well Squad has done balancing fun versus realism. Kerbin, the planet that the Kerbal’s inhabit and launch from, is about 11 times smaller than Earth. Distances in the Kerbin system are much smaller than our own but still large enough to give you a feeling of the vastness of space. My favorite example of this was launching a mission to the far moon of Kerbin, Minmus, and then launching a second mission to the nearer moon, Mun. I was able to complete the Mun mission with three days out, three back, plus a moon landing in the time it took for the Minmus mission to just do most of it’s nine day the transfer. The game allows for time warping, so I didn’t actually sit through a three day transfer, even if a Kerbin day is only 6 hours, but it was still interesting to realize the difference in distances even on a small planetary scale when I could fit one complete mission to Mun inside just the time it took for a trip out to Minmus.

If you’re curious about the game, I highly recommend checking out any of the KSP YouTube videos by Bevo, Scott Manley, and Tyler Raiz. Scott in particular recently did a whole new tutorial series when KSP 1.0 was release (part 1) and the game made the official transition out of beta. The forums are also an excellent resource are are both the main KSP subreddit and the Kerbal Academy subreddit.

As always check out the Blaugust Initiate Page if you’re interested in joining the blog-every-day fun.


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

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.