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.

GenCon 2015 Part 2

Blaugust 2015 Day 03

I spent the first half of Friday at GenCon in the Exhibit Haul Hall.

2015-07-31 10.37.18Harebrained Schemes was demoing a new game called Necropolis.  It’s a take on the Roguelike genre, which I’m usually not a fan of, with a really cool art style that reminded me a bit of Massive Chalice, which I really liked. I didn’t get very far the few times I ran through the demo, but it’s definitely something I’m going to keep an eye on despite the fact that I’m not totally sure it’s the kind of game I’ll enjoy. Not to mention my already ridiculous backlog of games to play.

2015-07-31 11.27.44The other video game I demoed was the new multiplayer for Handelabra’s Sentinels of the Multiverse: The Video Game. This is a really great adaptation of my favorite super hero card game. Sentinels the original card game has been criticized for being too fiddly. I can sympathize with that but don’t mind it myself. If that did bother you or your just interested in trying out the game without investing in the tabletop version, the video game adaptation is really excellently done.

The multiplayer session I tried out is still in beta but looks to be just as high quality as the single player game. Too be honest I wasn’t super enthused about it before my demo, but I’m pretty excited to play more multiplayer in the Steam beta and cross-platform on my tablet after it launches.

Besides video games, I demoed and purchased Apocalypse Chaos from Z-Man games. It’s like a puzzly smaller cousin to Space Hulk. I picked up a Kickstarter edition copy of a interesting looking tower defence game called The King’s Armory. And despite my preordering the most recent Firefly the Game expansion through my local shop in order to  keep from impulse buying it at the convention, Gale Force 9 had a gorgeous playmat version of the board for $40 that I just couldn’t pass up.

I only attended one panel the whole convention. The Writer’s Symposium track at GenCon included a panel on Interactive Fiction that Joe Dever was on that I couldn’t miss.

IMG_0303I also go the chance to meet up with Nos (in the center of the photo), one of the hosts of Kerbalcast. We hung out for forty-five minutes with another listener who was there and got to talk about the podcast, Kerbal Space Program, and board games. I’ve guest hosted on podcasts before, but this was the first time that I’ve met someone I listen to regularly in person.

After that I met up with Todd again and we did a D&D session of Harried in Hillsfar. This was my first ever role-playing experience at GenCon and my first in-person D&D session since college. I was a little nervous about it to be honest, but it went very well. I had a lot of fun, and my Dragonborn Sorcerer Kaar narrowly survived his ordeal.

Todd and I finished off the night playing Android Netrunner ( he won) and Apocalypse Chaos (we lost).

2015-07-31 23.53.49
One “small” section of the GenCon Play Hall

It was another early morning, late night for me but well worth it.

As always, it isn’t too late to join in and catch up. Well it is if it’s not still August 31st, but go check out the Blaugust Initiate Page anyway, there’s always next year.

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.