Over the weekend I returned to my Jool exploration mission and got the Explorer transferred from Tylo to Bop.
It took about two hours of real time and required three burns. A 10 minute burn to leave Tylo, a 6 minute burn to match inclination with Bop’s orbit and get an intercept, and a final 6 minute burn to get into orbit around Bop. Docking turned out to be easier than I expected but was quite slow.
Overall I’m pretty disappointed with the VASIMR engine on the ship. I tried an alternate design in the VAB with two reactors and engines which did help with the TWR of the craft but not enough to offset the hit to the available deltaV. Instead, I’ve started looking at a new version of the Explorer that uses nuclear engines. The current design looks very promising. It has better TWR and roughly the same deltaV. The ship is smaller because nuclear engines run on liquid fuel not hydrogen which takes more volume, and there’s no nuclear reactor required which saves a lot of mass as well.
Speaking of mass, I drastically overestimated the amount of supplies I would need for the crew. Or really I under estimated how well the hydroponics modules would do at recycling waste. Three years into the mission, and the crew still has a full set of supplies. The next mission should easily be able to get away with half the number of supply containers or more.
So now that the Explorer is docked at the refinery I have to make a decision about whether to cut the mission short and return to Kerbin or continue on to Pol, Laythe, and Vall. I’m leaning to cutting things short and coming back to Jool with a redesigned Explorer with better TWR. Either way, I can send Jeb down to the surface as planned and then leave the lander at the refinery.
Midnight, released yesterday, is the eighth and final episode of the Iconian War story arc in Star Trek Online. I got a chance to play it last night, and I think it’s my favorite episode in the entire game. It felt like a good TNG episode. I don’t want to spoil the mission for anyone but let me say that this entire arc has been great for resolving plot lines that were left hanging in TNG and Voyage.
Congratulations to Cryptic not just for a great episode but for finding a good release cadence for story missions. This year had seen a lot of quality new content released. Having a combination of monthly new episodes with rewards becoming available on a weekly basis to promote replays strikes a nice balance of giving players new content without overloading the developers. I can’t wait to see what’s coming with the next Season.
If you miss having Star Trek on TV, you really should give the game a try. The only downside is that the Iconian War arc is for level-capped players, but it’s possible to get to 60 pretty quickly between XP boosts and the Duty Officer system.
Continuing my extended weekend in KSP, I left off yesterday with the crew of the Jool Explorer 1 starting their two year journey to the outer edges of the Kerbol system. I time warped the game through most of that journey, slowing down to complete a few research missions and check in on a science lab in orbit around Kerbin’s second moon, Minmus. I use a mod called Kerbal Alarm Clock which is invaluable when running multiple missions at once. It does just what it sounds like it does. I can set alarms for various events like a ship is coming up on a sphere of influence change or a maneuver node. In this case I had an alarm set to remind me when the JE1 was getting close to Jool’s gravity well.
Getting to your destination is only half of the challenge for interplanetary travel. You also have to slow down somehow to get into orbit. In the above picture the solid blue line shows the trajectory of the JE1 coming into the Jool system and then escaping. Not only that, but the ship would have picked up a little velocity because of how it was passing Jool. In previous versions of KSP, the easiest way to get into orbit of Jool was called aerobraking, and involved dipping into the upper layer of Jool’s atmosphere and using that to slow down. In the current version that just causes you ship to overheat and explode. Instead of using atmosphere, it’s possible to use gravity. Jool has three decent sized moons with nearly Kerbin levels of gravity, which makes them excellent candidates for this.
In the map screenshot above there’s a maneuver node at the top left of the blue orbit which creates the new dotted orange orbit. That orbit intersects with Jool’s third moon Tylo (which is highlighted in a peach color). Because the JE1 comes in on the backside of Tylo’s orbit, instead of picking up speed the craft instead sheds it, and after exiting Tylo’s gravity well the JE1 will be in the third green dotted orbit. This let’s me get the JE1 into an elliptical Jool orbit for only 73 m/s, compared to spending 250 or more burning on the periapsis marker of the blue orbit.
This kinds of stuff is very cool to me and one of the reasons why I enjoy KSP so much. Of course it’s fun to launch rockets, fly planes, and blow stuff up, but I have really enjoyed learning about orbital mechanics and getting a deeper appreciation for the science and work involved in space navigation.
Finally in orbit of the Jool system, it was time to transfer to the moon Tylo and the initial moon landing. The Tylo rendezvous wasn’t difficult, but it was pretty tedious. First I had to push JE1’s periapsis out to intersect with Tylo’s orbit for 418 meters per second delta V which was about an 8 minutes and 30 second burn. Second, I needed to match inclination with Tylo, so we were orbiting at the same angle, which was another 192 m/s and 4 minutes. It’s not strictly necessary to match inclination but it makes rendezvous far easier to do and I’ve never had any luck without doing it. Lastly I needed to wait two orbits and then burn to bring down my apoapsis (point an orbit furthest from the center) to match Tylo’s orbit, which required 183 m/s and a 3 minutes 47 seconds burn. Again, time warp can’t be used while the ship is under acceleration, so I had about 16 minutes of real time waiting to sit through.
While it was really nice to have a design that included so much delta V, it hasn’t really been offset by a much lower TWR, which is why all of these maneuvers were taking so long. I’ll probably not be using this same design on my next big ship. Despite the slight frustration over waiting, I was finally in orbit around Tylo. The first really exciting part of the mission was about to begin.
Jeb transferred over to the lander and undocked from the Jool Explorer. After making a save point, because nothing ever goes right the first time, Jeb made a small burn to bring his orbit down close to the planet above a landing site that I selected semi-randomly. My only criteria was to get a different biome than an earlier probe mission so that I could run a full set of science experiments. After passing around the far side of the moon and making a second burn, I create a maneuver for the deorbit burn and waited as the Jool 5 Lander came back around to the daytime side of Tylo.
The deorbit burn was 1,495 meters per second, which was 67% of what I had in the descent stage. My plan had been to use that stage for most of the descent and jettison it just before landing. I had a minor moment of panic though because I wasn’t sure how much I would need before actually touching down. In the end I had almost a perfect amount. The remaining 33% was enough to keep my speed down for most of the descent after the deorbit burn finished. I ended up jettisoning the main descent stage and using about 460 m/s of my ascent stage touching down on the surface. But I had budgeted a few hundred extra meters per second on my ascent stage just for that reason. I thought it might be close, but I was pretty confident Jeb wouldn’t be stuck on the surface.
This Tylo landing was one of the more intense things I’ve done in KSP recently. It reminded me quite a bit of when I was first learning to do Mun landings and orbital docking. Trying to keep track of remaining fuel, heading, and descent velocity all while the surface is rushing up to meet you. These are some of the most exhilarating and rewarding activities I’ve ever done in gaming.
After planting a flag and running some experiments, I was a little anxious to get Jeb back into space and see if I could get him docked up with the JE1. Taking off from a moon with no atmosphere is pretty straight forward. You throttle up and point the craft to the east at a 45° pitch. East because then you get to add the rotational velocity of the body you’re on to your orbital velocity, and 45° is a good rule of thumb although you can always go lower or higher depending on the terrain.
It turned out that my fuel situation was a lot tighter than I realized. The Jool 5 Lander ended up in a 53.5 km by 17.5 km orbit with only 34 m/s fuel remaining. That’s not much, but this was after I had already gotten an intersect of 2.9 km with the Jool Explorer, so all I really needed was for my relative velocity to not be too much over 34 m/s when I got to my rendezvous point. I still have a bunch of monopropellant for RCS thrusters, but those aren’t create for slowing down more than 10 m/s or so.
After a last orbit of Tylo, Jeb’s Lander intercepted the Explorer and had a relative velocity of 45 m/s. Ideally it would have been 34 or less, but the remaining 11 m/s after I exhausted the lander’s fuel was easy to take care of with RCS. Docking went smoothly and then Jeb transferred back to the Explorer’s crew module bringing along all of the science he’d collected on the surface.
The next stage of the mission was to head to Laythe and land, but I ended up using more hydrogen than I expected getting from Kerbin to Tylo. So instead the crew of the JE1 will make for Bop which is where the orbital refinery that I had previously sent out is located. Bop is inclined and the fourth moon in the system, but it has very little gravity which made more sense for mining operations.
My intentions going into the weekend were to launch my Jool exploration expedition, meet up with my local Golem Arcana group, and restart on my multi-tasking experiment. Two out of three isn’t bad right? I ended up playing two Golem Arcana matches using my Dread Vanguard army, winning both so my Ashmogh remains undefeated, and playing a lot of Kerbal Space Program. A lot. Maybe 20 hours worth? I wish Steam showed detailed play statistics. Raptr kind of does, but it’s not as good at that as it used to be. As a matter of fact, if I think about it Raptr is past the point where its usefulness to me outweighs its memory footprint. I should probably find an alternative that just tracks gaming time.
The last phase of preparation for my Kerballed Jool exploration mission was to send up the crew and perform some minor structural maintenance.
The transfer vehicle was designed to send up a three Kerbal crew, the standard pilot, engineer, and scientist complement. It also had a probe core so that it could be remotely piloted and set to rendezvous and dock with the space station in orbit while the Jool mission was underway, and then be reused to bring the crew back Kerbin-side when they returned.
The crew launched at night in order to have the shortest rendezvous with the Jool Explorer 1. That means most of the launch and rendezvous was in the dark so there isn’t much in the way of pictures from that part of the mission. The actual crew transfer took place in the daytime as EVA’s, since there’s only one docking port on the Explorer and it was in use by the lander.
Our pilot, Jebediah Kerman, enjoyed the whole process a little too much.
With the crew aboard and some struts applied to the docking connection between the crew and engine modules by the ship’s engineer, Bill Kerman, it was finally time to deploy the habitat ring, heat radiators, and fire up the nuclear reactor.
This was my first time using such a large ship as well as a VASIMR engine. With a TWR (thrust to weight ratio) of 0.10 I was expecting it to be slow to get underway, but I wasn’t really prepared for how slow. I was also surprised that the Kerbal Engineer Redux (KER) mod that I use to provide flight details wasn’t working correctly with the VASIMR engine. After plotting a maneuver to transfer from Kerbin to Jool, the built-in numbers were telling me the burn would take 27 minutes while KER was saying 6 minutes and 28 seconds. Sadly KER was wrong. It also meant that I had to break the 27 minute burn down into 4 to 6 minute chunks, which was about the maximum length I could burn at my current altitude without causing my orbit to dip into the atmosphere.
So for about five orbits I would start burning at three minutes before the periapsis (lowest point on my orbit, and the most efficient place to burn from) and keep it up for six minutes total. KSP doesn’t allow time warping while a craft is under acceleration either, so I had to do all of the burns in real-time. Well that’s not totally true, KSP does allow for physical warping by a factor of 2, 3, or 4 times but physical time warp can do very bad things to a large craft and I didn’t want to risk it. Eventually the maneuver was completed and my Kerbals were finally on their way to Jool with the trip set to take roughly two years and 48 days.
Yesterday I worked from home since I had Comcast scheduled to come out and fix my Internet issues. I had been intending to upgrade to Windows 10 for a while, but hadn’t done it yet as every evening I decided I’d rather play games than deal with waiting on the upgrade and fixing any issues afterwards. Since I was at home for the day though it seemed like an ideal time to upgrade.
This was actually the third time I had gone through the Windows 10 upgrade process. I upgraded my old netbook and my wife’s laptop pretty quickly after release. So the actual upgrade itself was pretty uneventful. I did have a bit of fin getting it started though. I had “reserved” an upgrade via the system tray icon months before, yet clicking on it now to start the upgrade just had it sitting on the initial window. To actually start the upgrade I had to get the media tool off of the Windows site. Not a big deal, but it felt like an ominous omen.
Despite my difficulty getting started, the actual upgrade went off without a hitch. Even my Nvidia drivers seemed correct, which I’d heard were problematic initially. Unfortunately when I tried to launch the Nvidia Experience program to make sure my drivers were up to date the program hung. I tried uninstalling, rebooting, and re-installing to no effect. What did fix the application hanging was checking the “clean install” option during a custom install. Besides Nvidia, I also had a slight issue with Cryptic’s Arc launcher. I was getting an unhelpful error dialog when trying to launch any of the three MMOs I had installed. I’m not sure what the cause was, but I found that launching the individual games from the Start menu first fixed it.
But that was it! Considering I was upgrading from Windows 7, I’m pretty impressed that I didn’t have more issues. I haven’t gotten to do much with it yet, so I can’t say whether there have been performance benefits of 10 over 7, but I didn’t notice it being any slower which is a performance increase of a kind.
My plans for the holiday weekend are to launch my Jool exploration, play some Golem Arcana, and get going again on my MMO multitasking experiment.
Getting back to my mission preparation for my first Kerballed mission to Jool, the next piece that needed to get into orbit was the Jool 5 Lander (since it’s going to land on five different moons, not that it took five designs to get it right).
The launch went well, although I had to jettison the fairings below 20 kilometers which isn’t usually a good idea, but could have been much worse. I did end up using quite a bit more fuel than I expected. I still had plenty for rendezvous, but I knew then that wouldn’t have enough on the Explorer to completely refill the lander.
So of course that mean I needed to launch a refueling ship. I do have a refinery set up in orbit around Bop in the Jool system, but my plan was to go there last to refuel the ship before returning to Kerbin. I didn’t want to have to go there first, hit the remaining moons, and then go back again. Far easier to do the refueling in Kerbin orbit instead. I happened to have a large refueling rocket design already that was over kill for my current needs, but that’s kind of how you’re intended to play KSP anyway.
The refueler launch and rendezvous went off without a hitch. I always enjoy watching booster stages separate and drop away. Here’s the completed ship, fully fueled, and ready to receive crew once the transfer window arrives.
Some nights things just want to work out. For whatever reason my intermittent Comcast disconnect issue was being very consistently disconnecting last night. When it finally did finally stabilize, I tried logging into STO but was still getting disconnects in Cryptic’s games. Or maybe it was my connection being flaky enough that it was causing problems for a game while being fine for streaming video from YouTube. No idea.
Despite my short time in game, I did hit a milestone. Bryn Aev was promoted to Fleet Admiral, that’s level 60 and the current level cap in the game. Granted it was just as result of assignments completed by duty officers aboard the U.S.S. Vyrael, but I’m sure he played an important leadership role in their success. Or could just be Starfleet politics. Despite hitting the cap, I still have a few more missions to complete in the Delta Quadrant before Season 11 arrives, not that there’s a date for it yet but I’ll be surprised if it’s not planned for October some time.
Since my internet connection wasn’t cooperating, I tried playing some KSP but my head just wasn’t in the right place for that either. Mostly because I’m getting to the point where I’m ready to fast forward to the transafer window for sending the Kerbol Explorer to Jool and didn’t have enough time to really finish the mission preparation. Instead I crashed on the couch and watched part one of the two part season finale of Dark Matter (which got renewed along with Killhoys which I like a bit more) and went to bed before midnight. It made me feel like such a responsible adult.
Goodbye Blaugust, hello Restember! Well hopefully not.
Yesterday marked the end of another successful Blaugust. Thirty-one posts in as many days. Unlike last year when I apparently hit a speedbump after the first week, this year I didn’t start to struggle with topics until around the 12th or 15th. Even then, I just stopped worrying about having a topic and just started writing and figured a topic would show up. Some times it did. Some times it did not. That for me, was really the point this year. I basically relearned last year’s less of “just write and publish” don’t worry “is it ready.” That’s not to say I published anything I wouldn’t normally publish, it’s more that I would’ve just not sat down to write or I would’ve saved it as a draft thinking I needed to come back and proof it, and then deleted it three months later.
My favorite thing about Blaugust this year besides just getting back in the habit of writing, has been the success of my multitasking experiment over the last week and a half. Needing something to write about daily, and having a bout of nostalgia for a couple of games that I always mean to get back to, gave me the push I needed to finally pick LotRO and Champions back up. Even better is the fact that I’ve seen other people get interested in those games as a result of posting about it here.
Last year, I trailed off in September posting eleven times in the first half of the month. Then only twice in October and nothing until January. Unfortunately, it seems like if I’m going to be consistent, I have to do it every day. That certainly has been true for Blaugust, and was also trued for me during Nanowrimo. But daily blogging full-time feels like a huge commitment. Weekends especially are difficult to make sure I sit down and write. It might be enough if I schedule a daily task in my organizer that just runs Monday to Friday, but I think that’s what I want to try starting out, along with a reminder to check in on the blog and see how I’ve been doing after a few weeks.
My multitasking experiment has hit a speed bump. It’s hard to rotate through three MMOs when two of them are having connection issues. According to the Neverwinter community manager, Cryptic is having an issue with their ISP. As someone whose been on the phone with Comcast twice in the last seven days and having a technician come out Thursday to check the wiring both inside and outside, I can sympathize. At least they’re taking care of players and extending active events.
Due to issues with our ISP over the weekend, we've decided to extend the Crystalline Entity Event until September 7. http://t.co/ZJpOueRhud
I didn’t play any games last night. Yesterday’s Golem Arcana write-up took longer than I expected, and I burned quite a bit of time on YouTube and Reddit, but I did get some LotRO in on Sunday that I didn’t mention in yesterday’s post. My return to Middle-Earth had made Wininoid nostalgic, and we got together with a pair of low level characters (Loremaster for him, Champion for me) and completed the post-tutorial quests in Comb. I hadn’t done any of those since the last revamp was done. I don’t expect I’ll spend a ton of time on alts though, as my main goal in LotRO for the multitasking experiment is to get my hunter, Brynulf, back to the level cap, and more importantly experience Isengard and Rohan.
Tonight’s plan will be to check in with STO and Champions and see if I have any luck. I’d at least like to review my completed duty officer assignments and schedule some new R&D projects. Failing that, I’ll probably end up in Kerbal Space Program again. I still have a Jool moon lander to put in orbit and dock with the Kerbol Explorer 1.
Saturday was my day to meet up with the Indy Golem Arcana group. Only four of us could makes it, which is about half as many people as usually show up, but it was enough to have two games running. We used 100 point armies rather than the usual 500. If you’re not familiar with miniatures war games, every unit has a point cost to it. So game scenarios are usually designed with a certain amount of units in mind, and it also helps to make sure that teams are evenly matched.
I had some trouble initially putting an army together since I hadn’t put together a large build in a couple of months. Having a large pool of points to spend might not sound like a big deal, but it can make it harder to build good synergies in when you have a larger number of units. Once I finally got my mental gears switched over though I actually ended up putting two different armies together that I played with.
Zikia – Fen Prowlers
With three Titans (Fen Lord, Wildwood Dryad, and Fend Lord) and three Ogres (all Prowlers), this is a big army. The three Prowlers are so mobile though that I wan’t too worried about getting out maneuvered. I also really liked having three Prowlers in this build since they generally end up destroyed pretty quick, as most opposing players will attack them first because of their Caustic Spray attack and their passive ability which gives them a 5 point damage-over-time for three rounds after they move. Combine that with the two Fen Lords’ ability to pull enemies in and melee, the Dryad’s ranged abilities, and I ended up with a pretty well rounded army and enough points left over for some relics and an Ancient One.
This army went up against a Durani build with a couple of Winged Preservers (very mobile Titans), a Jeweled Harpy, and a trio of Fire Rams (think artillery). I ended up losing two Prowlers early on as I wasn’t careful about staying out of range of the Fire Rams. At the midpoint of the match I was down two Prowlers, my remaining one was highly damaged as were both Fen Lords. The Dryad was the only golem undamaged. My opponent hadn’t lost any units although two of his Preservers and his Harpy were heavily damaged.
Fortunately for me, the match turned around pretty sharply when I destroyed both of his Preservers before he destroyed one of my Fen Lords. He moved in his Rams to try and get range on the rest of my units, but I moved my remaining Prowler in originally intended to soften them up and then follow up with the remaining Fen Lord pulling out the Rams individually and destroying them in melee. I had forgotten about the special effect on Caustic Spray though. I very rarely get to use it against a group of enemies in the same region, so I had forgotten that the Spray bounces and causes each golem in the region to do 10 damage to every other golem in the region. So instead of doing 8 damage to each golem with a 15 DoT over the following three rounds, I actually did 28 damage plus the DoT. Rams only have 60 hit points to begin with and I had gotten in some attacks early on so all three were reduced to 4 hit points and then died at the beginning of my opponents turn.
That was basically the end of the game. I did have to contend with his Warsprite Harpy, but with two Titans and an Ogre remaining it was quickly over.
Urugal – Dread Vanguard
The Ashmogh Colossus in the back, then left to right in the front are the Corpse Collector (Ogre), two Crypt Ticks (Warsprites), and the Morrow Witch (Ogre). The Ashmogh is the newest Colossus released for the game, and one of the reasons why the group wanted to play 1000 point armies. I basically threw this one together by picking the Ashmogh and most of the units from the most recent Urugal release. I left out the Relentless Brute (Titan) since it’s a melee powerhouse which I didn’t need with a Colossus on the field. Instead I went with a Corpse Collector because it was more mobile and had a nice ability to drag enemies to neighboring regions.
My Urugal army went up against a Durani army containing a Jagara Colossus, one Titan a Growling Phalanx, two Ogres a Prowler and a Fire Ram, and one Warsprite Vigilant Sentinel.
With two Colossi on the field, this turned out to be a pretty long match. I started out with a really nice combo by using a relic on my Morrow Witch that added 10 regions to her range, and which let her use her ranged attack, Surging Hex, all the way across the board. Surging Hex is a damage-over-time attack that does no damage initially. Instead it does 5 damage the first round, 10 the second, and 15 the third. Even better, unlike most effects, this one stacks, and I hit his Jagara with it three times. So the Witch’s hex did 15 damage to the Jagara on my opponents first turn, 30 on the second, and 45 on the third. That’s 90 damage against the Jagara’s 250 hit points.
The next round my opponent led by bringing his Prowler across the board to get some early Caustic Sprays on my army, and I countered on my second turn by pulling his Prowler in with my Corpse Collector and bringing both Ticks in for melee. If I hadn’t missed, I would have been able to destroy his Ogre with their healing attacks, but sometimes the Random Number Generator likes me and sometimes it doesn’t and early in this game it definitely did not.
I ended up losing both Crypt Ticks and the Corpse Collector in the first half of the game, while my opponent had only list his Fire Ram. But all of his other units were heavily damaged between the Ashmogh wading into the middle of the combat and the Witch staying at the edges and throwing out Hexes. Usually Morrow Witches are the only units with a bigger target on their backs than Prowlers because their DoT is so nasty, but my opponent was so focused on my Ashmogh that she managed to hang around for most of the game and I think that made the difference in my win.
This was a tricky army for me to play. The Urugal faction is powerful but most of their abilities are fueled by sacrificing hit points, which is counter to my normal play style. This was also the first time I had used the Morrow Witch or the Crypt Ticks in a real match. Surprisingly to me, I think I played better in this match than the previous one as I didn’t have any unintentional good moves like the one I pulled with the Prowler against the Fire Rams. I think because I’m not as familiar with Urugal as I am with Zikia, I’m more careful and pay better attention to what abilities I have available.