Thursday, December 31, 2015
But that doesn't mean I didn't have an interesting year.
Work sucked worse in 2015 than it did in 2014, as in "sucked so bad I quit and started over." I miss the old job (as in the actual product and tasking) and old crew (as in my local team) but am now in a much better place for both stability and professional growth. And while the new gig is a good deal for me, it also comes with the bonus of not working for fools, liars, and assholes. Bonus points.
In terms of bikes and triathlons, 2015 was a year of rebuilding. The Imperial Century still eluded me. With the lack of clear weather (and 2x the normal lawn mowing), I was well off the training curve to even think about attempting a long ride of any flavor. But my lower back held strong, and I regained much of my lost stamina. I found a great indoor training video for hill climbs and my consistency on hilly bike courses improved dramatically. I am still not fast, but I am more consistent.
I started the year planning to compete in maybe 1 sanctioned race. Instead, I completed 3 multi-sport races (more than any other year) - one sprint tri and two Olympic distance swim/bike events. I track everything I do in a big spreadsheet, and I can say that I biked more than 2014 (but not as much as 2013). I also swam more yards this year than any other year in my life.
It was a good year for EVE. My isk balance is way up, higher than it's ever been by double the amount it was a year ago. I am not rich, but I do ok, I have a hanger full of ships, and I flew more new hulls this year than I really expected to. I got around to some areas of space I've not been to in ages. Thanks to the anomic agents, I also lost more ships this year than any other, which is actually a healthy thing in the big picture. EVE Vegas was a great time, and the PVE content I've wanted for awhile has continued to be deployed.
Time marches on relentlessly; it pauses for no man.
I don't have many discrete goals for 2016. If anything, 2015 reminded me that life isn't nearly that predictable.
What I find myself wanting is more.
More time. More miles on the bike. More laps at the pool. More evenings splitting wood and burning brush. More time repairing grandad's tractors. More afternoons running agents, incursions, and trading trinkets. More time for offshoots like GW2. More time with family. More Saturdays quietly at home. More trips across the country. More vacation days spent at home. More progress, less conflict.
So what I should beg for is more focus. The ability to say "no" decisively yet gracefully. The insight to understand that if I indulge all tasks then all suffer equally. I should beg for the wisdom to know which things to ignore, which people to disappoint, and to which I should give attention. To allow that establishing priorities means that many things simply can't and won't get done.
So what's my goal for 2016? To get SOME things done and let the rest wait, and to be at peace with that.
Tuesday, December 29, 2015
We've seen Star Wars 7 on the Imax 3D screen twice now. I went in not expecting much and was happily surprised with the result. The first showing we went to was at lunchtime on the day of release - the theater was sold out (at lunchtime!), and the audience was almost entirely people in their 30s and 40s (i.e. "my age"). This was such a fun setting; while waiting we chatted with those around us like old friends. When the lights went down, all phones went away and the nerds got focused. We cheered when the Falcon came on the screen, and again when Han and Chewie showed up. At the end, we clapped politely, then all sat and watched the credits roll.
Perfect movie? No, not at all.* But I was a Star Wars kid of the 80s, and these are the friends/characters I've wanted back on the screen nearly the entirety of my life. When the special edition (revamped original trilogy) returned to theaters in the late 90s, there was a huge buzz around the franchise and things finally looked good for Star Wars fans. This was of course followed by a big kick in the nuts called Episode I. So let's face it, it could have been a LOT worse. Episode 7 is a fun ride if you let it be fun.
But -- on the Horizon for Dog's Breath. I have my year end wrap up post that will hit on the 31st or 1st. I am unhappy with it and will need to spend some time reworking it (unlike most posts, I've already been through it twice now).
I have a monster Shadows of Brimstone How-To post that's drafted but needs a ton of pictures imported and formatted. Mrs. Durden and I have been playing SoB whenever possible (though I had to clean up the dining room table for Christmas dinners) and have been thoroughly enjoying it.
Ingame, I have been cleaning out old inventory (necessary evil) and running lvl4s. I am trying to get some of the cruiser anomics to spawn so I can recheck my fits; this will result in hopefully some updated PVE guides.
I've been looking at the default templates and may ditch the red/gray star motif for something a little easier to read. The red/black gets fuzzy on some of my devices. Open to ideas.
No timetable for any of this (other than the year-end post) but hope that my weekends will remain free through January allowing for more online shenanigans.
*Note: There have been no perfect movies since the Goonies.
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
Sunday, December 20, 2015
|Detective Miller looking thoughtful.|
This is a public service announcement: The Expanse doesn't suck. The broadcast schedule will still give one "new" episode per week, but as a means to get us all hooked, the powers at Syfy have released the first FOUR episodes for free, right now. That means if you can stream it, you can see the first 4 in a binge in under 3 hours (~42 mins/episodes).
This is probably a good move. Espisodes 2 and 3 drag a little bit, but only because it's a character development timeout and an investment must be made as the plot begins to unfold. The book suffered the same slower pace through this part of the story.
The series is remaining very faithful to the books. Detective Miller's character is even better on screen than he was in the books, and they're doing a great job with his slowly growing infatuation with the missing girl Julie Mao. The portrayal of crew member Amos is especially on point, and one of my favorite characters of the novels. The Mars ships are as badass as I expected.
I'm hopeful that we'll get some quiet time over the holidays that I can rewatch them all.
Saturday, December 19, 2015
Voodoo Williams, "A Spider in Her Web"
Eight Thousand Suns in New Eden (Lore-Based Stories)
Sugar Kyle, "Cortex"
Callista Dallmore, "The Gate"
Tiberius StarGazer, "Different Bodies"
Nomistrav, "He Saw Infinity"
Torsnk, "fleet logistics"
A Day in the Life (Gameplay/Freeform Stories)
Archangael/Jason Jones, "The Best Sport"
Oreamnos Amric, "Blood Frenzy"
Tom Hawkins, "The Hunt"
Tom Hawkins, "Fabled Beauty"
Yuri Serafim, "Split Decision"
Other Things Just Make You Swear and Curse (Humor)
Abavus Durden, "The Allure of the Damsel"
Drackarn, "Into the Breach"
Sleightz, "From Riches to Riches"
Honorable Mention (from all categories)
Islana Deepsorrow, "The Proteus: LC-K-114"
Drackarn, "The Journey"
Islana Deepsorrow, "The name of the capsuleer"
Da'iel Zehn, "Infiltration"
Dirk Magnum, "A Code Like No Other"
Sera Kor-Azor, "Ole' Time Religion"
Regalas Davaham/Ben C., "Stargate"
Rusty Boon, "A Longing for Loss"
Sunday, December 13, 2015
Longtime readers may remember me rambling about Shadows of Brimstone back in August after we attended GenCON. After several dozen hours assembling and painting the little figures, and then being blindsided by an unforgiving Fall schedule, we have finally set aside enough time to actually play the game.
I first heard of Shadows of Brimstone from some of the folks randomly assigned to my table during a Star Wars Miniatures game at this year's GenCON. We were all playing Rebels together and began sharing other games we'd bought or tried at the 'con. They had supported the Kickstarter of Brimstone and told me where to find the Flying Frog Productions table in the vendor hall. Interested, I dragged Onyx over to the table to check things out.
This is the banner we used to navigate to the booth:
Throughout the remaining days of the convention, I kept steering us back to this booth to try to get a demo session of the game. But every time I went back, the tables were full and I could barely get close enough to watch over someone's shoulder. I saw this as a great sign. On our last day I caved to impulse and bought the City of the Ancients core box (there are two "cores sets") and the first expansion, Caverns of Cinder.
The game consists of cards, character sheets, oodles of tokens, dice, and map sections that lock together. The miniatures (monsters and heroes) come unassembled and upainted and are the largest complaint about the game (most people, reasonably, just want to open the box and play, and feel that for the $$ involved they should come more complete).
Assembly and painting of the miniatures is going to be its own post (long overdue, but still on my radar). But I'll summarize by saying that I went into this expecting only to glue the figures together (most require assembly like a model airplane) and give a basic spray-can coat of paint to help them pop on the table. In the end, I did far more detail (and surprised myself with the results for a 1st timer), but the time involved deferred the actual play of the game from August to December due to "real life."
As I write, we have finished the first 3 beginner missions and things are beginning to gel.
But I'm getting ahead of myself, let's back up a bit.
What the heck is it?
SoB is a board game. But that's like saying "EVE is a space game" - it really doesn't give you the context of scale, scope, and depth available.
Shadows of Brimstone is a dungeon crawler set in the late 1800s American West. Deep inside the local mines, evil is stirring, and your posse of do-gooders is (reluctantly) sent in to smite it. Wormholes to other worlds await deep in the mines where nasties are pouring out. (My core box includes the basic Mines environment and Targa Plateau, a frozen land, and I love snow maps). So, take your favorite Clint Eastwood western, mix in a bit of Cthulhu and noir, and just a pinch of Stargate SG-1 and you have Shadows of Brimstone.
I'll be really honest. I was skeptical when I first saw the art. I'm not a particular fan of Westerns, and the Cthulhu wave that's hit a lot of games the past few years is a little lost on me. But the setting frikkin' works. The flavor text on the cards is well done, the art in the books is great, and the randomness of the demons and tentacles somehow melds well with it.
I won't give any lengthy description of the rules, but as an overview:
a) The game is completely co-op and there are rules to scale it from 1 to 6 players (playing with 5-6 players requires 2 core sets though). By co-op, I mean that unlike other major games (Descent 2nd Edition, in particular), there isn't a player that has to assume the role of Dungeon Master or Overlord to control the monsters. The monster AI is fairly simple with rules for how they spawn, choose targets, and an attack rotation. The co-op aspect of it is something that drew us to it, as we can play together without one of us having to "lose" the game.
b) Almost everything you do is governed by rolling dice and drawing random cards. At any given point, it's
c) The map itself is random. You draw cards from a deck and reveal the map bit by bit as you play. Pieces interlock like puzzle pieces, but it's all luck of the draw whether you end up in a long hallway or an open room. No two games will truly be the same. It's subltle, but not knowing what's around the next corner (or how far you have to go to the boss room) keeps the creepy factor high.
d) For the first five minutes, it's a super-complicated game. After the first session, you kind of say "huh, ok, I get it." After the 2nd session, I didn't spend the entire game with my nose in the rulebook. The manual is good, but it's pretty thick and it's easy to read something and then forget where you saw it. Our first game involved only one fight but still took two hours due to all the fumbling through the manual.
e) You not only have Health points, you also have Sanity points. Some of the encounters scare you so bad, they can literally drive you insane and scare you to death. So far, managing the health pool seems to be the primary damage mechanic, but I can see that later managing both will add a layer of complexity.
I asked Mrs. Durden (Onyx) what she thought of it, and typed furiously as she talked. Onyx says, "This is easier to get into than Descent. For people that maybe have played other games, it has that good balance of being easy in concept but continuing to challenge. [The adventure] is a matter of luck; you're not going to roflstomp through, and that will keep you coming back."
|Your Posse of Heroes|
(Look out for the Night Terror behind you!)
|Boss Fight, Session #2|
|End Fight, Session #3. I am the |
Gunslinger with a pair of 6-shooters. Onyx is the U.S. Marshal
with the street sweeping shotgun.
I'll stop here. The next Brimstone post I'll tackle will be a how-to on painting the miniatures, as information on SoB online is perhaps a little thin.
Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Bottom line, Operation Frostline is a mild remake of the Halloween event; this time we're killing Serpentis at the random sites.
I happened across a Frostline site in highsec last night while going from Point A to B to tend to my industry system. I was in my Sacrilege, not the best for dps, but certainly not the worst against frigates and cruisers, so decided to check it out. I was in a busy highsec system and expected the site to get swarmed, but I was the first person on grid, and began destroying the Serpentis.
It works very similarly to the Halloween event -- you land on the beacon to a locked acceleration gate and some frigates. Kill the frigates to unlock - from memory there are 4 waves. Gate unlocks, go to the 2nd room. Partway through the killing a Navy Apoc showed up, but I didn't relent in my killing spree and he was having trouble hitting the frigates with his large beams (not pulse, beams) and warped away just as I entered the 2nd room.
Second room has some structures and a mob of cruisers. From memory there's 3 waves of cruisers and then a single battlecruiser that actually drops the loot. My dual rep passive tank Sacri tanked this room at 95% or better the entire time. On the 2nd wave, a Tengu arrived but didn't shoot anything, he simply waited for the end 'boss' to try to scrape the loot.
BC spawns, we both dps him down, but I got can rights to the loot and the Tengu chose not to flip the can.
For my trouble, I got the Male and Female Serpentis shirts and a can of Quafe. I convo'd the Tengu and offered to give him the Female shirt (Aba being male and the Tengu char being female) but he declined.
From his initial response, I'm sure he expected me to yell at him or something, but I wasn't going to get upset about a shirt on the first day of the event. He declined the offer, we chatted a bit, and we went our separate ways.
From the way the dev blog is written, I would expect the Frostline loot to improve as the event goes forward, so I'll figure out what ship I want to use for hunting these.
Happy Hunting everyone.
Tuesday, December 8, 2015
First, I wasn't sure if the book series was a good candidate for a TV show. The Expanse book series is full of some incredibly big (but slow) story arcs unfolding over multiple novels. The first novel is great, if a little grisly, but the series kind of steps back to do some plot development before really starting to cook again in book 4 or 5.
Second, while the book characters are interesting, I feared that the near future setting would come off a little stiff/cliche (like Defiance), they'd try to make it too comedic (i.e. a Firefly knockoff*), a little too campy and yet self important (like Stargate Universe), or perhaps a poor-man's Battlestar Galactica.**
The series pilot is free right now on Amazon Prime as well as on Syfy's web page. I've watched it twice. The attention to detail in the series is pretty good. Special FX are adequate but not overly flashy. It's faithful to the books (altho Naomi should be a lot taller). The writing is good, and the guys playing Detective Miller and James Holden are almost perfectly cast.
So, I'm impressed. It comes off as a really solid foundation on which they can build. I'm now excited to see how well the rest of Season 1 comes out (and SyFy has already ordered Season 2, a good sign).
I urge you to give it a try. The series premiers on Monday at 10 in the US, with Episode #2 airing the next night on Tuesday. But you shouldn't wait that long, go stream it now.
More info, courtesy of wikipedia.
*Note: I love Firefly, but the Expanse series isn't cast in the same mold, trying to make it be something it's not would be a disservice to the source material.
**Note 2: I also love the BSG remake, at least the first couple of seasons, but again, a poor feel/fit for the Expanse to emulate.
Monday, December 7, 2015
One of my best friends surprised me and sought out the EVE client without any prodding from me, created an account and logged in. I knew he was vaguely interested after my tales from EVE Vegas, but my surprise when he said he was getting the client was genuine.
He was almost through the character generation process when his internet died and he had to start over. At that point he (jokingly) sent me a comment about having the hard part out of the way. I replied with the infamous EVE Learning Curve chart, but I don't think it scared him much.
He rolled Gallente, and once he was ingame, I made my way to Cistuvaert to say hello. He was part way through the first few tutorial steps, but undocked and met me at the gate.
"Ok, now what?" he asked.
Gah. I hadn't thought that far. What do you do with a 20 minute old character sitting in his shiny noobship? The player behind the keyboard is one of the smartest guys I know, but he's got no context for EVE, has no idea where anything is in the UI, and was barely able to undock and find me.
So I did two things. I began to spam our convo channel with information, and got him into Sugar's public channel so he had help if I wasn't around. Super high level instruction in terms of what EVE is and isn't; a conversation ensued about how I've chosen to play vs. how others play their particular game. Topics included the market, system security status, gankers, the tutorial and SOE arc, and the fact that assets don't magically follow you through space (if you want it somewhere else, you gotta haul it).
Throughout this, I was answering questions. Several times, things that are kneejerk muscle memory for me stumped him. I'm effectively speaking multiplication and long division at him, and he is still at 3+3=6. At one point we chatted for awhile before realizing he'd minimized his overview and therefore didn't see ANY of the buttons I was described. This isn't a reflection on him (he's one of the smartest guys I know), or me (I'm pretty smart too, hah), or even the game (it's all there, really), but without being able to see his screen so I could point and grunt in the right direction, he was really stumped.
The second thing I did was get him in a Fleet and jumped to the system next door. Basic activity of navigation. We warped around a bit, and I got him to use autopilot to get home. Back in Cist, a Serpentis Hideout appeared on scan, so I warped in to begin clearing it. He came in and assisted, playing with combat, basic maneuvering, and targeting. This went better, and he killed and looted a few pretty smoothly.
With the evil Serpentis vanquished, it was time for me to think about bed. I felt guilty leaving him to his own devices and the boring ol' tutorial, but in many ways it'll be far better than I am at some of the nuances.
I don't know if he'll stay past the trial period. I'm sure his next session will go more smoothly. But it's certainly been interesting to see the game through his eyes.
Friday, December 4, 2015
It's that time of year. This is Abavus's First Annual Gift Guide.
These are items that I have used in the real world over the past year. Some are nerdy/gamy, Many are not. They are in no particular order. I am linking to whichever store I find convenient; in many cases this is Amazon, but in many cases not.
1. TYR Small Alliance Backpack - When I started my new job earlier this year, the hike from the parking lot to my desk increased about 50x. The old reusable grocery bag that I used to toss my lunch, coffee thermos, sunglasses, whatever was not going to cut it. I experimented with an old laptop backpack, but found that I really wanted a smaller bag with fewer internal partitions. This model by TYR is comfortable for 1-arm carry, has enough room for all my crap, and was cheaper than a lot of options (Jansport). It is intended for Triathlons and as such many of the pockets are vented (so be warned if you are in an area that rains constantly) but the inside is roomy and the cloth is reasonably stiff to hold its shape while loading.
2. Contigo Travel Mug - Also after starting the new job, I wanted/needed a new travel mug. My old 40's style monster thermos was too bulky to try to carry and deal with getting in and out of the building. A friend recommended this model crom Contigo; it keeps my coffee hot through mid-day but isn't gawdaful bulky, looks great, and is spillproof. (I had to use mine a week or so before the 'plastic' taste disappeared from my coffee).
3. X-Wing - Let your inner nerd fly. Jump into the new ships with the updated version of the smash hit tabletop game from Fantasy Flight. You'll want more ships than come in the core box - Millenium Falcon in particular is very sexy. But the core game gets you started. The ships are great, and the combat system is simple to grasp but difficult to master.
4. Duluth Trading Fire Hose Work Pants - Santa brought me a pair of these last year, and I put another pair on this year's list. They're comfortable, breathable, warm enough for cool weather work. If I'm out in the back 40 running a chainsaw, this is the pair of pants I grab for both comfort and a little added protection.
5. Amazon Fire TV - We have an older (2006) flat panel TV that I'm hoping to get another several years out of. It doesn't have any built in streaming options and few modern niceties, but it does have a single HDMI port, and we recently signed up for Amazon Prime. This little box makes streaming content from Amazon dirt simple. Abavus can now watch Downton Abby on the big screen instead of the laptop, woot.
6. Jim Butcher's the Aeronaut's Windlass - The first of a series of (hopefully) many many box, Jim's first foray into fantasy steampunk is a great read for cold winter nights. It's got great airship combat, reasonable characterization, and if you're a cat owner you're going to love Rowl.
7. Nike's Dry Fit Cotton Socks - Yes, Socks for Christmas, how original. Working in an office for the past (almost) 20 years, I've usually worn the kind of dress socks like dad and grandpa had - the thin, nasty little argyle life suckers. Earlier this year I flipped those kinds of socks the bird for everyday office wear and switched to athletic style black socks for all but the most formal of occasions. These Nike's are the most comfortable I've tried. Life is too short to walk around all day in stupid socks.
8. Zombicide: Season 2 Prison Break - Disclaimer: I don't actually own this, but played on a friend's set at a nerd gathering this summer. Super fun co-op board game that keeps you jumping, requires some thinking and group strategy, and hilarity when it all goes pear shaped and someone gets their brains eaten. The only reason I haven't bought it is that Mrs. Durden got me into the kickstarter for the newer version for my birthday.
10. EVE: Source - Reading this book made me remember a lot of details I'd forgotten since launch. The book has some great art, but is more of a sourcebook for lore and backstory on the major factions (including the piratical ones). Good reading for an EVE player.
Wednesday, December 2, 2015
This post meanders a bit, but bare with me...
I have said before that one of the virtues that keeps me in EVE is the design philosophy of horizontal expansion. Most of the time, new systems are added in parallel with existing ones. Unlike games where there's a set of loot to earn or a lvlcap bump up another arbitrary 10 levels, EVE's content remains (more or less) balanced around the same basic combat and content engine.
This results in a stable economy and stable content (the capship bpos I bought in 2007 are still worth something and still useful, unlike the corresponding equipment my wow characters had in the same era).
We've been talking a lot lately about new PVE content, new lvl4s, and gutting of old systems (incursions in particular). And I am very much on board with that.
But its also struck me recently that it could also mean a phenomenal amount of change to parts of the game that have been untouched since the beginning. (In fact, the code being so old and insupportable is part of what's driving the sweeping changes). And it will be a unique day in EVE when it happens... Very rarely do we see the outright scrapping of an entire system.
I struggle to imagine a day when Aba couldn't login to silence the informant in the way he's known since 2004 or so. The mission system, for all its warts and evils has been so fundamental a force for me in EVE that its absence will be noticed and perhaps even missed.
There will be a system to replace it, no doubt. CCP has said as much, and the improvements are much needed. But to make an analogy, we live on 10 acres in a 3200 sqft home today that is better in every way to the 1000 sqft starter home we came from. But that doesn't mean I don't look back fondly at the old place, or sometimes think enviously of the young couple living there now, enjoying its simplicity.
And so ahead we grind, seeking our loyalty points and standings and salvage from a system that is in dire need of replacement. May that patch day come soon, and may we appreciate the new system for the opportunity it presents and the significance of its existence considering the horizontal expansion philosophy of EVE.
"Everything that has a beginning has an end." That's one of my favorite quotes from the Matrix 2. It has to do with the ...