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Phantasy Star Online 2

I loved Phantasy Star on the 8-bit Sega Master System and Phantasy Star II on the Genesis even more. I skipped the rest until Phantasy Star Online caught my eye for the original Xbox, and have been waiting for the Western release of Phantasy Star Online 2 because I never really spent a lot of time with PSO and wanted to give the treatment another go. So far it’s been vaporware where in the West; it’s been live in Southeastern Asia for some time now. Region locking meant that Westerners who’ve been anticipating the game couldn’t even jump onto Asian servers, at least until this past weekend when the lock was mysteriously dropped and folks from all over to the world could connect to the existing game.

The original PS games I played were very much classic console RPGs. PSO was more of an on-rails RPG. Your character and party would navigate hallways — be they indoors or in outdoor “canyons” — fighting monsters as they appeared ahead of you. Sometimes the length of time spent in these hallways was agonizing, as I remember it, with very few opportunities to reach a checkpoint before you had to eat dinner or take a bathroom break or go live the rest of your life or something similar. After a while, the game wore on me, being very much the same thing over and over, more so than what kids complain about in MMOs these days.

The download and patching process for PSO2 didn’t really bode well for an improved experience. It downloaded a launcher. Then downloaded 14GB of game files. Then it downloaded some unusually massive patch. Then it checked for another patch, and found a small one. Then it was ready to go. I started the mission of installing the game somewhere around noon time, returned after work to find it ready to install, and didn’t check on it until 10:30. I had just let it do it’s thing.

The character creation is pretty impressive, with a lot of options to choose for face, hair, eyes, etc. Once you have the basics set, you can tweak the elements individually using a four point graph to push and pull and stretch and squash features to the desired dimensions. Avatars are very cartoon-like, not angling for realism like Final Fantasy XIV or TERA or other Eastern MMOs.

After creating and naming yourself, you’re in for about 20 minutes of cut-scene exposition that finds you, a cadet in the ARK Corps, facing an enemy that wasn’t expected to be there. You have a sidekick who does all the talking, and are eventually joined by Cocky Asian Badass #241. Once you reach the end of the hallway system you’re beamed up to CAB 241’s ship, meet his partner, and are delivered to the social hub. That’s about as far as I got.

The combat is semi-action based. You use the left and right mouse buttons for primary and secondary attacks, and can augment at least the primary attack with the SHIFT key. There are two hotbars present, and you start out with a healing potion, a rez potion, and a “telepipe”, which is for recalling your lost ass, not for smoking from.

I’d say it’s a pretty good system if not for the fact that I’ve been playing Skyforge recently, which is a true ARPG, and the fact that PSO2‘s camera is one of the most frustrating I’ve encountered. Well, that deserves a caveat, because PSO2 is really designed to be played with a controller. Your camera is not a chase-cam, so it can move independent of the avatar. This causes issues because you can get your avatar to face in any direction, including at the camera. The problem is that when you attack, you attack forward from where your avatar is facing, so if you’re facing the camera — like when you evade backwards — you end up shooting…nothing. I learned that the “Q” key is used to lock onto a target, but in the heat of battle figuring out that your “Q” lock is over and you need to re-target sometimes gets a little wonky. As for some of the other systems and design decisions, you don’t get access to inventory or other menus until you reach the social hub, and everything about the tutorial is handled by popup panels. If you’re not in the mood to read, then this game is going to drive you nuts. Thankfully, all of the text and (hard to read) subtitles are in English, although the voice overs are in Japanese.

I guess this would be a great console game with a group of friends who just wanted to kick ass. In some ways, the UI and a few other elements reminded me of Final Fantasy XIV, specifically how the quest system translates to FFXIVs “-leve” system. Granted, I didn’t spend a lot of time with the game — most of it was cut-scenes, and then I ran around the social hub for a bit — but I am getting the feeling that PSO2 hasn’t fallen too far from it’s predecessor’s tree in terms of gameplay and repetition.

Personally, I think I’m going to keep my eggs in the natively translated Skyforge, which does action better and is easier to understand, and makes more “Western Sense” than a game that isn’t currently aimed at a Western audience. I’ll probably boot it up again to give it a fair shake, though. I spent half a day downloading it, and my fondness for the Phantasy Star of old means I owe it that much.

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The Re-Repopulation

What a difference a patch can make!

A bit ‘o history before we begin: I had heard about The Repopulation a while back through some of their developer videos which showed a pretty interesting crafting system. I thought their implementation was nice, but it wasn’t until folks started talking about it in terms of Star Wars Galaxies and Ultima Online that I paid real attention.

I backed their Kickstarter, and supplemented my pledge with additional cash in order to get access to their alpha phases. Unfortunately, excitement plus “alpha phase” does not equal feeling good about the money pledged, simply by virtue of the game being in alpha. Expectations weren’t tempered, and the abysmal performance issues I experienced soured me on the entire project.

This past Tuesday ABTech released a massive patch which was notable for it’s new tutorial zone, but it also include a few line items on optimization. As much as I was interested in a new starting experience, I wanted to see exactly how optimal the optimizations were.

I started a new character and the changes were immediately apparent. My character was responsive, and the “life” in the game (NPCs, mobs, flora, etc) weren’t having any visible issues — no sliding around like dogs dragging their butts on the carpet, animations in-time with speech bubbles, and so on.

So regarding the last post in which I said I wasn’t sure that ABTech could get the game running well enough to make a 2015 launch? I’m going to downgrade that from a “ehhhhhh…” to a “strongly optimistic”. They apparently have some tricks up their sleeves.

*   *   *

So what about The Repopulation?

Bold Claims

There were those who were upset when SWG closed down, and not all because they felt that SWTOR was cannibalizing it’s older sibling. SWG did a lot of interesting things that didn’t involve combat. It was a sandbox, and while you were at odds with either the Empire or the Rebels, you could also make a living through crafting, animal handling, or entertaining. Like, a real living, without ever having to take up arms, ever.

When you claim that your game is the “spiritual successor” to a game like SWG, you’d better deliver, because saying such things is going to make some very critical people sit up and take notice. You’re playing with people’s emotions here.

I think they’re on the right track in many ways, but we’re talking about a really massive track here.

Overload

By the time I was done playing last night, and I leaned back and assessed what I had experienced, the bottom line I reached was that holy shit opportunities in this game are massive, and I hadn’t even left the tutorial area.

Assuming I’m reading the tea leaves correctly, there’s no limit to the number of skills you can have. There’s no “official” classes: you just obtain the base skill, and then use it to level up. In the tutorial zone, you get two skills for free, and then others cost a measly 80 credits each. My first mission awarded me 400 credits.

I am now a pistol wieldin’, flame-thrower sportin’, sniper-rifle huntin’, shockgun (not shotgun) carryin’, melee punchin’, axe choppin’, sword swingin’, hammer bashin’, wound patchin’, dead revivin’, animal tamin’, robot commandin’, joke tellin’ two-steppin’, smooth-talkin’ badass.

Each skill you get is immediately dropped onto your hotbar, so my hotbars are a patchwork of different, unrelated, sometimes underused abilities that I keep around just in case need to use them.

The game is going to require some serious discipline to limit the focus, or else I’m going to be trying things just to try them, and end up never really getting anywhere specific.

Playtime

The first thing the game has you do is fight your way to the encampment after you were reconstituted following an untimely death in a transport crash. In all honesty, the combat is what interested me the least, since I was in full, rabid SWG mode. At this point, the combat feels pretty loose. Tab targeting works, but I don’t think it works well. Actual attacks (mostly ranged, as this is a sci-fi game) didn’t have that “oomph” that you get from, say, SWTOR. Blasts were flying all over the place, but the response time between hotbar use and result was a bit laggy, and the expected impact of the attack was a bit watery.

This is where I fall back on the “it’s not meant to be release-ready yet”, and based on the difference I’ve seen between earlier and now, I believe that ABTech can clean it up in time (assuming I’m not on crack and that these systems aren’t 100% polished yet).

Most of the tutorial elements have you running to different PoIs on the tutorial base so you can get a lay of the land. Many of them end up offering you skills and abilities, and then teach you some of the more esoteric corners of the game (fun fact: there’s so much stuff in the game it has it’s own in-game UI for what it calls the “database”, a reference for basically everything you might have a question about, and this is awesome. Should alleviate that “I forgot how to do X” after long absences). The only downside to this is that you run. Really. Slow. Really. Slow. Like. I. Could. Crawl. Faster. Than. This. Mah. Gawd. Where’s. My. Sprint. Key?

Points of Interest – Harvesting and Crafting

I’m going to get specific, now, because I played all of SWG as a crafter. 100%. I shot maybe two things my entire time playing. But I really like first-class-citizen crafting systems, so since TR allows players (and says as much) to do nothing but harvest and craft if they want, it was where I spent most of my time last night.

Your crafting tutorial starts with you creating “gadgets”, which are MacGuffins that exist simply to teach you how to make and unmake stuff. You need materials, agents, and a crafting station. Materials are used up, but agents might not be (depends on the recipe, from what I’ve read).

Materials have quality stats ranging from “F” (worst) to “A” (best). Since that’s too logical, there’a also a sub-grade that runs from 0 (worst) to 9 (best). F0 is the worst grade of material you can have. A9 is the absolute top of the line. When you harvest something, or kill and skin, extract DNA, whatever, you get a default quality out of the deal. However, using your skills you can try and enhance the results and turn that D1 to, say, D2.

And yes, these stack by material only, not by quality. Your stack of vulture DNA might say “D1″ in the UI, but you could have all kinds of quality stacks within that icon. There’s a litany of keys you can use to split that stack by quality, to show the best on top, worst on top, etc. I suspect this is going to throw a lot of people off their game.

You get non-organic materials through harvesting. There’s two modes of harvesting: manual and automatic. Manual is…manual. You get a tool (the tutorial bot gives you some starter tools — a saw, a drill, and a water extractor) and you walk up to the resource and right click on it, opting to enhance the result (or the region, which takes longer, but boosts the output of a lot of resources in the area). Automatic is straight out of SWG: you place a harvester at a specific location and wait for the hopper to fill up. The tutorial has you going out to collect water, so you find a contaminated water source and drop down the extractor. Unlike SWG, extractors can be placed in groups of four, but (I believe) only display one in the world. This allows multiple people to extract at the same location without a fistfight breaking out. I believe that you’ll get better mats from the manual extraction than you do from automated, as the automated didn’t give any option to enhance (maybe enhancing the area will help extractors…?). Extraction for the water was kind of fast; about 10 minutes and I had twice what I needed for the mission. I packed up the extractor and headed back.

Construction is pretty simple, but not WoW simple. You throw in your materials, an agent/catalyst, and possibly enhancements once you start making real and complex stuff (I’m guessing here). Construction is a series of steps, so you can step through them all one by one, or you can automate it and have the crafting station blow through them all on your behalf. I believe I read that there is/will be Everquest II style complications that can occur during crafting, so I suspect that stepping through manually and risking complications will result in a better product, saving the automation for quick but cheap mass production. Again, just speculation as the tutorial didn’t go into that level of detail.

Stragglers

A few things that stuck in my mind but I didn’t spend a lot of time with:

  1. There’s a mini-game system which has several iterations. I bumped into one near the crafting stations, but the instructions were horribly unclear so I didn’t make any headway
  2. There’s a Vanguard style diplomacy system in place. It operates like the minigame mentioned above — complete with a lack of meaningful instructions — but the result is that you can put NPCs in a certain mood to make them easier/more difficult to talk with. That will grant you bonuses or special conversation options that can have a benefit for you.
  3. The community seems nice! I was watching the general chat, and folks seemed to be not-asshats. Subject to change, I’m sure.
  4. Hearkening back to an earlier post, the environments are pretty massive, which means at your terribad run-speed it takes a long time to get anywhere…even from one side of the tutorial base to the other. Thankfully, you can harvest some pretty simple materials and trade them for a starter mount early on, which I haven’t done, but which I hope will alleviate the irritation of crawling everywhere.
  5. The camera behavior during conversations can induce nausea. It snaps around to different angles which sometimes cuts off the conversation balloons (SWG vets know this conversation style). Not a biggie, but would be nice to to maintain some level of standards for camera position when talking/when leaving conversation.
  6. There’s also housing, which I have yet to experience.
  7. Animations are OK but not fantastic. I know that’s a hang-up for some folks.
  8. Visually, the game is better now that I can actually make it look like a PC game and not a mobile game. I haven’t cranked everything up, though; I used the “auto-detect” button, so I have no idea what settings I’m on. Looks better than it did, though, and a smidge better than “good enough” for my concern.

And In Conclusion…

I am pleased with The Repopulation at this point, mainly because I can play well enough to actually try it out.

But what kind of game is it? Well, it’s a sandbox of the highest order. There’s a few visible quest givers (Arrow up means they have a mission for you, arrow down means they are expecting something from you), but they only provide busy work (AFAIK). You mostly get job offers through “email”, and those are procedurally generated and are therefor fairly simple requests. You can ignore them or accept them, and they pop up anywhere you are, giving you a constant stream of money making opportunities, although many of them will have you bringing something to someone out of your way.

Right now, this is a game for sandbox fans, folks who can self organize and generate their own stories and set their own goals using the mechanics that the game provides. There’s also factional PvP in zones between the hub cities, but with combat the way it stands now I can’t imagine what PvP must look like. Probably like a bunch of elderly bumping into one another with their walkers and canes.

I’m most excited about the harvesting and crafting aspects, though. Back in the SWG days I think it was easy to be successful at this simply because there weren’t that many people playing the game who were interested in tethering themselves to a crafting table when there was the whole Star Wars universe out there to experience. But with so many people in the MMO genre this era of min-maxers and guild-zombies, I suspect crafting competition will be fierce.

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Prioritizing Interests; A Good Assessment; Perform Better

Prioritizing Interests

While eating my Cheerios this morning, I suddenly and randomly started thinking about my interests and where they sit right now in regards to the kinds of games I’m playing.

Normally I’m not a Call of Assassin’s Battlefield kind of guy. I mean, AAA games are great; they’re made by talented people with piles of resources. On the other hand, I’m also not an indie kind of guy. There’s a lot of great indie games out there, but I still get the feeling that we’re a wee bit over-saturated in the “artistic platformer” department.

So I sit down at my PC wanting to play something, and I’m staring at what I’ve got installed. Guild Wars 2, Wildstar, Elite: Dangerous, and some smaller scale games like SkySaga and War for the Overworld. Being me, none of this is doin’ it so I open Steam and check out the Store page, thumb through the Recent, Popular, Upcoming, and Specials tabs at the bottom to see what’s available.

I can’t think of any AAA games on the immediate radar right now that are interesting me. So in the absence of the hype train making a stop in my town, I’ve resorted to taking a cab, i.e. smaller, more numerous, more difficult to gain attention games. On one hand I kind of feel bad knowing that I’m only considering this level of product because there’s nothing more high profile that’s on the horizon. On the other hand, it’s like getting away from the tourist traps and wandering through residential neighborhoods. It’s a different experience, maybe far more hit or miss than what you’d expect from a “sure thing” in a franchise release or from an established and respected studio, but still has value even though I’m only doing it as a consolation.

A Good Assessment

One of the least popular topics here at LCHQ has always been my development entries. A lot of folks either have no interest in how the sausage is made, or don’t understand the jargon, or simply don’t read anything I write ever. That’s OK. It’s being written as much for me as it is for you, which is what I’d tell you if you were here reading this.

A common theme of my development posts is the struggle I have as a hobbyist developer. To me, a hobbyist is someone with a day job who has absolutely no interest in sacrificing the enjoyment of his hobby — gaming — for the benefit of being on the “professional” side of the curtain — making games. I’ve got no structure, no friends to help out, just enough know-how to make meager progress, but a whole lot of ideas that always tend to run well ahead of the cart.

I like it when I read about other people who struggle, like the folks at Iron Tower Studio who posted a kind of “decade in the life” rundown of why it takes so long to make a game (in their case, as an “indie” studio). From my perspective, this post nails it, and I say that because I see everything I’ve struggled with recounted in that post. The ideas that outstrip the talent. The assumptions. The moving goalposts. The only real difference is that they have multiple people…and a product. It’s disheartening that with multiple people it’s taken them over a decade to get their product out the door, since I’m one person who’s had starts and stops over the course of half that long, and I’m not getting any younger. But we keep on keepin’ on because what else are we going to do with our time?

Perform Better

Patch notes are out this morning for The Repopulation, and it makes me both happy and really bummed out.

the-repopulation-05

Their headliner is that they’re revamping the tutorial. I’m good with that, since I’ve done that tutorial several times. Why several times? Because that’s the part that bums me out. I’ve stopped trying to play that game because of it’s abysmal performance. My system is several years old, now, but I can still run new releases with cranked up settings and it doesn’t break a sweat. Granted, The Repopulation is still in development, so I’ll cut them some slack; I’m not complaining that the game runs badly. I’m just saying that I wish it ran better.

“A lot of people”, meaning “random quotes from the Internet that I’m recounting without context” say that The Repopulation is the spiritual successor to Star Wars Galaxies, and in their literature the Repop devs continuously invoke SWG as well as Ultima Online and Vanguard and other games that were about more than just combat-and-loot. That’s my kind of game, and I keep going back every few months to see if things have improved in terms of “can I actually move?” and “am I shooting at something that’s animated, but is already dead?”. So far, it’s not been trending in my favor, although I have gotten the game to run respectably…if I crank down all of the settings to “should run on your smartphone” levels. I guess I can live with that for now.

The downside is that this game is supposed to launch this yearNow, not to disparage the developers, because they’re obviously skilled and more talented than I am in this realm. I do hope that performance tuning is creeping up their to-do list as they get closer to the end of the year (check out what Wildcard has been doing with ARK: Survival Evolved). Personally, I’d be willing to sacrifice some of the features that are still on the drawing board in exchange for a game I can actually play.

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Distributed Gaming

SteamStreamingDiagram

It seems the days of being tethered to your platform of choice directly are pretty much over.

The PC’s domineering distribution channel Steam has it’s in-home streaming option which requires you to have a Steam Machine* on the receiving end. Of course, you can also get a supported Nvidia card and it’s own set-top device to stream any** game to any other viewing rectangle of your choice.

The Playstation 4 has streaming to a limited number of devices. The Vita is one, although you have to contend with the remapping of the controller’s shoulder buttons to the back touch panel on the Vita, which is something you need to practice with. There’s also the PSTV, a slip of a box that can be hidden almost anywhere, sports the Vita’s UI, and can receive PS4’s signals.

Upcoming Windows 10 has XBox One streaming baked in. While Microsoft has gotten hammered in the past for tight coupling of products and services to their OS, I think this one is a real winner. The only problem is that you need to have a Windows 10 device connected to your viewing rectangle, so unless you invest in a dedicated box to hook up to your TV’s and monitors, you’ll be gaming on the couch (at the XB1) or at your desk (via Win 10).

However, in playing with the Windows 10 preview and streaming XB1 to the PC, I wondered what the options were for connecting devices to other TVs in my house. In essence, it’s not at all different from what you’d have to do for Steam’s In Home Streaming, since SteamOS can run on a PC. The PS4 streaming is a no-brainer: you just need to buy a bunch of PSTVs and connect them to the TVs in your home. But there might be a bit more work involved in streaming XB1 or Steam.

According to the FAQ on the subject, the destination device must have the following specs:

For best performance, we recommend that your Windows 10 PC have:

  • At least 2 gigabytes of RAM
  • 1.5-GHz CPU or faster
  • Network connection to your home network:
    • Best performance: Wired Ethernet connection
    • Good performance: Wireless – 5-GHz 802.11 N or 802.11 AC wireless access point
    • Limited performance: Wireless – 2.4-GHz 802.11 N or 802.11 AC wireless access point

My first choice was the Raspberry Pi 2. Microsoft has a Windows 10 “Internet of Things” (IoT) edition that will run on the Pi. The Pi itself doesn’t measure up to the “best performance” specs, which isn’t to say that it wouldn’t work, only that your performance might suffer. Upon investigation into Win 10 IoT, however, I learned that it’s not a “Windows 10″ so much as it is the Windows 10 bedrock: the libraries and base OS, but no UI and therefor no features that would allow for streaming.

The next investigation lead me to the “PC on a stick”. These look a little more promising, such as the Intel version which features a 1.3Ghz ATOM processor, 2GB of RAM, built in wi-fi and Bluetooth, SDXC slot, USB 2 port, and 32 GB of onboard storage. The linked product comes pre-installed with Windows 8.1, which should qualify for a free upgrade to Windows 10. Other manufacturers are pumping out their own sticks with roughly similar specs:

While the specs on these aren’t a dead-match for the “best performance” recommendations for Xbox One streaming, they’re pretty close. With 32GB of on board space, and for those who support an SD card, you could even install Steam and have the device perform double duty Xbox One and Steam In Home Streaming. Of course, this is speculation based solely on the “on the box” specifications and requirements for the setup to perform; these sticks will not sport the best GPU, but it seems that both XB1 and Steam requires H.264 encoding and 1080p video support — which I believe these sticks do, though I’m not a hardware guy — so they just might work.

 

* “Steam Machine” meaning a machine running the dedicated SteamOS, or another system running Steam client (I believe)
** Not sure if there’s a laundry list of restrictions on the games you can stream via Nvidia’s “Shield” technology.

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Being a Multiplatform House

Being a Multiplatform House

I’m now back to the point where I’m in a multiplatform house. I’ve got my PC, my Xbox One, and my Playstion 4 (my daughter want’s a WiiU for  Splatoon, but unless she’s going to spend the money for it, it’s not in the cards), plus a test Windows 10 machine, a Playstation TV, and a Playstaion Vita. Also, a 3DSXL, but that’s kind of an outlier.

Choice is good! Choice is always good. Except when choice is bad. Not bad, per se, but at least overwhelming. First world problems, of course, but this blog isn’t dedicated to pressing economic, political, or religious issues, so what do you expect?

My time recently has been spent with the XB1. I’ve actually been having more luck getting people to play with on the XB1 than I think I have ever had on the PC, which is forehead-slapplingly strange considering 98% of the people I interact with are PC gamers (or so I am leading myself to believe). We just don’t play together, meaning “me” and “them”, although many of them play together so fine, be that way.

As a consequence, my time spent in front of the monitor has diminished. I’ve logged into Elite: Dangerous a few times, played a few practice rounds of Orcs Must Die! Unchained, checked my email, and…eh…that’s about all.

I don’t think I remember where I put the PS4. That is the far more worrisome part of all of this. I had been gung-ho about the Playstation early on, and bought several high profile games for it, like Destiny, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Diablo 3, and FarCry 4. But here’s where it gets tricky now that my house is full once again: when do I pick XB1 over PS4, or vice versa?

I have fewer games for the XB1, and they’re kind of one-trick ponies (another DestinyHalo: The Master Chief Collection), but I can get people to play with on the XB1 which increases satisfaction dramatically. When it comes time to consider a new game, how do I choose which platform to buy for?

In all honesty, I am considering turning in the PS4 unless I can find a way to “make it work” in the house at this point, but I feel that it involves sequestering myself in a corner to power through games I’ve kind of left off. I do consider that the current focus on the XB1 is a result of the fact that some of us are new to the platform, and that others are excited that they can use their XB1s with use newbies. Maybe in a few months everything will settle down in this regard and people will splinter again and the PS4 will come back into vogue, although with the release of Windows 10 and (in my experience) the far superior streaming abilities inherent in the update, the XB1 will continue to be the dominant console in the house.

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Signing Up For Duty

Signing Up For Duty

Over the past few weeks I had been participating in my first Community Goal in Elite: Dangerous. It was to survey systems and planets, and to turn in the cartographic data to the mission hub. The good news was that no matter how much you contribute to the CG in the end, you got fair market price of the carto-data you sold. The bad news is that this was a CG with no interim yardstick. Exploration is one of those mechanics that doesn’t pay out until you’re done. You can only sell data 20ly from the system you’ve scanned, which isn’t a lot, but it does mean that if you want to collect a lot of carto-data,  you need to travel pretty far afield.

Arissa_Lavigny-DuvalI had maintained a steady presence in the 70% contribution bracket throughout the month-long campaign, turning in data every once in a while. The payout for the 70%ers was about 2m credits; at the time, I had about 400k credits, so a “free” 2m — plus whatever I could sell the cartodata for — was a pretty OK deal.

As I surmised, however, other people who were participating in this CG were probably way the hell out there for the majority of the four weeks, having traveled outbound for two weeks, and then inbound via a different route for the other two. When I logged in at the end of the event to see how I did, I found that I had received the consolation prize for “just participating” — a measly 175k credits.

My friend CMDR Benjeth had been rolling in the credits, however, mining lucrative trade routes while I was out staring at lifeless planets. I need to get in on some of that action, because my current scheme isn’t getting me anywhere.

So this past weekend I decided to suck it up and get into the Powerplay system. I had been holding off during the CG because pledging to a power can make your life difficult in space controlled by other powers, and I needed to travel through a lot of different systems. But with a need to find “gainful employment”, I wanted to join up with a power that fit my play-style, but wasn’t (already) a lost cause.

Zachary_HudsonArissa Lavigny-Duval was (at the time) currently in first place, but she was running a CC debt; she had more command capitol going out than she did coming in. Her goals are very combat-based, and while I like combat OK, I don’t really have a combat-capable ship right now. She’s also Empire, and I have no real reputation with Empire. I had originally be focusing on Federation, because that’s where I had started, but I didn’t want to sign up with President Hudson-Not-Really-Robert-Patrick-We-Swear. He’s kind of an a-hole, and his goals are also all combat oriented.

I opted to go with Alicia Winters. She’s in second place (last time I checked), and her goals are all courier-based. That means a lot of picking things up and transporting them to different locations, like propaganda from a control system to a system in preparation. Not glamorous, but also not all that difficult; but very time consuming, as some of the control worlds are >100ly away from some of the systems that were under construction.

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Character Study

Character Study

My daughter has been hounding my wife and me to give her “commission work” to draw because other family members have offered to buy some of her artwork (not in a patronizing way), and because I talked to her about the commission circuit.

We gave her some instruction on what we wanted her to work on. For my wife, she wanted a picture of herself and her sister playing a board game. I asked for a picture of me playing a video game (duh). She works in the anime/chibi style, so I expected a cool picture I could use as my online avatar because having an in-house sweatshop to churn out art is what I need if I’m ever going to make headway with this game development shtick.

Thing is, she gave us a lot of crap about not “giving her a lot to work with”. She was expecting exacting detail, like clothing poses, facial expressions, and probably even minutiae like colors and patterns. I frowned at her, and told her that she’s kind of missing the point of “art”: it’s not about someone telling you what to make; it’s about something asking you to make something. We wanted her to apply creativity to the process, but she wanted the path of least resistance.

So I met her half-way. I want her to draw something, so I figured since I’m playing Guild Wars 2 ahead of the expansion, she could draw my Ranger. I took a bunch of screenshots from the front, sides, and top (the best I could do with the limited camera range in the game), and told her that she only needed to draw from the waist up. At the very least I expect it’ll be a good workout for her, but I’m more than half expecting her to basically just copy what I’ve given her. Ideally, I’d like her to take the face, hair, and clothing, and draw some kind of “not what’s in the screenshots” post, like an action pose or something.

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