Open To Play

So here’s what’s going on for the end of the month on my YouTube channel.

With my Cities: Skylines gameplay, I think I’m getting close to finishing most of the game. There are unlockable building that require me to do a few things which I will try my best to get some of them. I want to aim for hard finish at the end of May so likely I might get 2 or 3 “monuments” before we finish as well as a cramped cities with suburbs dotting the edges. At the moment, it would be satisfying to finish the game once I’ve filled out the city. Perhaps one day I could revisit and try out mods or asset from the Steam workshop. For now I want to to be done by the end of May.

Recently I’ve been cleaning out my Steam wishlist and I’ve shortened the list to under 30 game at the moment, only 2 of those games to me are ones I would like to play. Newly added to the list is Elite: Dangerous, an indie successor to the retro classic space shooter funded by Kickstarter. Second being a sandbox survival and building game called Empyrion. Either are pretty good game and I want to go back to some indie games; preferably in the FPS, sandbox or survival genres. At the moment, I’m short on funds so this summer (thus a hiatus off WordPress and YouTube) I will be away working nonstop until early August. After that I’m planning on getting one game. Okay I’m going to be an addict and say I want two but I want to get at most two games year unless it’s free or gifted to me.

Now the start of my return from work, I am not sure what to do. At first I wanted to play the new game I would buy but I also have a bit of a backlog of games I would like to have a gameplay series. Here’s a few ideas I’ve been working with since I started playing since last year:

  • Replay Skyrim (Arrows to the knees, why not?)
  • Replay Fallout New Vegas (Knee capping because why not?)
  • Play Space Engineers regardless how immersion breaking the survival is at the moment
  • Elite: Dangerous for the cool factor

Yeah, it’s a short list but at the moment this is all the ideas I have for the near future.

As for Pulsar: Lost Colony and Interstellar Marines, I will try and inject some gameplay here and there. As I am writing this, there isn’t much going on with both games so in Pulsar: Lost Colony, I might want to try and find the last ship on our kill card until pre-beta comes out. As for Interstellar Marines, same situation. There hasn’t been a lot of update and no new maps have been released so it’s a choice of playing for co-op or playing single player in a very expansive map with aimbot-y AI hunting me down in the dark. Definitely if I die, it wouldn’t make good content; unless it’s a death montage. Definitely the end of this month if I have time, I’ll publish something beside Cities: Skylines to round of all the videos before my first hiatus.

I guess that is it for updates on my channel. As for my blog, I’m trying to write some creative ideas and setting them to publish during the summer until I return. So far I have two of the 7-8 weeks covered. So 6 more articles and I’m in the clear. I have to admit, I’m not a very forward thinking person so having even this might foresight is unprecedented. I like to wait and see, but with my job and this summer coming up it’s about pre-planning and making commitments stick. Even if they are voluntary commitments like this humble blog, I don’t let it go until it’s over.

Until next time and next week, let’s all prepare for an excellent summer!

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Play the Game

When I was a kid, play time was a fairly restricted thing both in time and money. Growing up I wanted to have all the Hot Wheels and Legos but my parents rarely let in. Of course in the end, I joined my generation’s fascination with television and watching as much as I can to fill void between homework and dinner until I knew about the Internet. One of the challenges now as an adult is to find balance between free time, personal development and my profession. Many see their life as work and play, two things people seem to latch on to either sooner or later in life. To me it doesn’t seem quite the simple case.

Like many adulthood-like things, we tend to define definitions; be the definite definition that defines definitely, well you get my point. As a kid you never really had to do that, as you grew everything dials itself into a definition. Fun time becomes play, play then is for enjoyment which can then be experienced when certain tasks are accomplished and time is allotted. We become affixed to sets of rules and conditions which has been placed there to wither hinder having fun or promote efficient work over inefficient play. The difficulty behind this either letting go of play or holding onto play. Many people I’ve seen have either displayed an ordered attitude while some seen off the cuff and free to play.

When it comes enjoyment alone or with groups, we most of the time think about games. Videos games, tabletop games, sports; these are the games we play with no monetary value attached to play. These games each of their set of rules and conditions, how to achieve victory through a means. Sound familiar? Work is a set of rules and conditions to achieve an income through a means. Whether you like it not, both work and play are fairly similar however the difference come back to childhood. It feels like work because you are coerced to be there, much like how your friends take you somewhere you don’t like and the hours seem to last forever.

From the day we are born until we die believe it or not, we are playing a game. Condition being you will have to stay alive and the rules change as you grow up. “If life itself a game, how do I win the game?” To be frank, there is no definitive answer which makes life a hard game to play. With no real victory, people say when you die the game ends. On death, you lose and no one is necessarily a winner. What if death isn’t the end all to this game? What if death is just a a rule? A natural rule where death is the end of your time much like time based games. If so much like timed games, the victory conditions are not when the game ends but how well did you do within the confines of the game. Perhaps life is more like Boggle than it is Monopoly. Perhaps life isn’t how slow or fast you die, but what moves you make and the actions you take.

Without a known victory state within this construct of a game, we tend to see out those who seem to be “good” at playing the game. The successful bunch, the rich bunch, the happy bunch of people who seem to be getting along well in life. Like the games we play, we have to lose some and win some. The experience in losses and gains regardless of the outcome. Much like life, we make choices we regret and actions mistaken but this how we learn. This is how we make our moves accordingly to achieve the means. Maybe life can be the most humbling game for us all to play. We receive one chance to do all the things we can until we die. The only thing stopping us to knowing the victory goal is complexity.

For me, I don’t see myself as money maker, a philanthropist nor a thrill seeker and risk taker. In my heart, I’m a gamer, player of games. In the complex defined rules, I know the end will happen to me as well one day. I have now until that day to find the victory. It’s surely not immortality I seek where indefinite game time is allotted so I can play forever. Though money is a concern, having reserved stacks of funds would do very little for me in the end since death takes away all the personal memories and cash you accumulated. So the winning condition must be what I can do with the time I have. All the accomplishments and actions I take matter regardless of risk. To me, the game of life is just this, to do what we can humanly can; to live our lives. This is our victory condition where we experience the world around us rather than being concerned about the empirical summation of our lives. Our existence makes the difference of what we have achieve and what has yet to be accomplished. Which means life isn’t about a set number of actions or a set goal, but perhaps our own legacy to the world to let the generations of gamers ahead know we have played the game.

We might not “win” the game, but we should surely try and play as well as we can.

Into Airsoft

As I am writing this, I am ill. Being stuck in bed means I am and for the first time blogging from my phone. Hopefully everything makes sense and spelling is fairly correct.

So what have I been up to this week? Much has happened since my last post. First being I got sick which I am recovering slowly yet terribly. I sure how I got sick but I know it felt like it came suddenly starting with a scratchy throat. For the moment with some medication, I can function with little interruptions.

On Wednesday, I paid a visit for the first time to buy some airsoft equipment which I am happy turned out well. Though I am short two magazines and some clothing, over the coming month I might be able to fill it all in. In the mean time here a pic of all the things I bought.

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In the picture is my brand spanking new airsoft gun from King Arms with a gun bag for legal reasons. I bough a lithium polymer battery and a smart charger. Though travelling to the store was tough, I think my entertainment budget is effectively maxed out for the year if I don’t find a good way to make up for losses.

Speaking of entertainment and losses, my adventures in The Long Dark will be on hiatus for awhile. I am starting to feel a bit burnt out from travelling. I think my sickness is getting to me. However on good news, I did record some Pulsar Lost Colony so those episodes will be uploaded and published.

Also some time soon, I will convince Jessica (“Allahweh”) to start a co-op playthrough of Starbound. I hope soon since my summer scedule is getting packed.

Speaking of which, recently I had a nice chat on her Gaming Goddess Podcast. We talked mostly about streaming and space games. I have to admit I was nervous but I think I was okay as a first timer. Definitely would like to come back on her show.

But for now, I need to rest and heal. And hope I am better tomorrow.

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Re: Your First (Videogame) Love

Response to aander14’s blog post here.

For me, I had bunch of small moments that fell in the right place. For me when I started playing video game, I wasn’t much of an enthusiast. My parents were fairly strict and (Dare I say) somewhat backwards when it comes to new technology. Here’s the list of firsts that got me into playing video games.

The first time I ever met the digital world was probably in school when I was a kid. That’s when schools started to teach kids about graphic design and how to draw stuff on computers. The first computer I remember using was a Macintosh, I’m talking the years before the iMac went on the market and every school in my district pretty much had something from the late 80’s. Most distinctive piece of software was the paint program for it where you use dynamite to “blow up” your creations. Later as each classroom got it’s own computer, the district went forward with getting PC’s. Before the Apple computers were phased out of the computer lab, I remember playing Battle Chess or a variant of it. Until my parents finally got an SNES, this so happens to be the first exposure to video games in my entire life.

Then I got the SNES, or Super Nintendo for those who are a tad young and asking “what’s a SNES?” Remember how my parents were so strict on me playing video games? They were probably the epitome of tiger parents before the term even came around as “tiger parenting”. So essentially when they got me the SNES, they thought I was too young to have it and too young to do anything besides go to school and get good grades. My sibling on the other hand turned the argument around and got us the SNES. First game we got was Super Mario All Stars and at the time even with my parents putting money to this game console, the would hardly let us play it until we were done our homework or we had nothing else to do. After awhile, our library to include Super Mario World and Gladius II which was given to use by relatives. Later on in grade school, I met other people who owned the Playstation and the N64. At the time, the PS had GTA but I never touched it until a buddy of mine at the time got it and told me to try it. I mostly stayed on their N64 and my SNES. First exposure with platformers aside, I got into cinematic cutscenes and gun play of Perfect Dark. I got deep into the singleplayer and enjoyed the split screen, big head cheat fun of of PD.

The same buddy that got Perfect Dark got Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and they let me play it. That was when everything just click. I liked sandbox, violence and open world games. Even to this day, these are the tenets of video games I like especially when it’s not overly exaggerated and just allows some escape from reality. As I got older, my parents seemed to relax a little and got me the Game Boy Advance and some games for it. For the most part, I stuck to Mario Kart for the GBA and Pokemon Red. By this time I was coming up to my teen years and I was fairly entertained through cartoon violence. So Mario and friends later got boring to me, lacking the things I want in games. I laid fairly dormant with my GBA until I was around 13 when I finally got my first PC.

Growing up in lower middle class, my parents couldn’t afford what I wanted in a PC so I got something a bit low brow. More attuned to a workstation than a gaming rig, I got this 512 MB with 40 GB computer running the last Intel Pentium ever created. This was my gateway to the world. To top it off my parents let the world wide web into the house with DSL and that’s when everything starting to ramp up for myself when I played the many games I soon to find to be everywhere. Firs it started with browser games that are precursors to Facebook games. Then I got a collection of pirated games from my sibling when they moved away for university; but mostly I remember Mechwarrior 3. By this time, my life starting to go downhill. In my child-like mind, the world didn’t seem as beautiful and carefree. As I entered high school, I already accumulated a lot of time into my first MMO, Kal Online which was a Korean MMO taken place in Korean lore. I got as far as I could in the game but in the end at level 25-ish, I gave up after feeling the grind of the game. Of course I moved on; Silkroad Online, WarRock, and Cabal comes to mind. Perhaps there a dozens I’ve played and forgotten. After my first PC finally gave, I got a new PC and continued playing. First on the roster if memory serves was NavyField which was a Korean MMO naval arena. Of course the game has been updated many times over the years; when I remembered it, the game only had 4 nations (US, GB, Germany and Japan). This second PC lasted me a good while and I even tried to go off gaming to pursue increasing my grades. With all my efforts and looking back on it, it was indeed a futile effort and regardless of any scientific study; it didn’t change my grades, I was still the below average student since grade school. Fondest memory was the closest time I went into Major League Gaming; yes that’s right, I was close to MLG material at the ripe age of 15/16. At the time, I was playing America’s Army with a clan I was in trying to get a team together into MLG. In short, the power went out and I lost my shot at a small pot of cash at a small growing gaming tournament league. I believe the cash prize was about $14-18 grand USD per person. In it’s finality of it continuing to this day, my parents view of video games is damning. Video games is a form of entertainment and not a business you can get into, so they say. Yet I could’ve been the coolest kid in high school since I won $14 000.

By now, it was about 8 years ago where I finally found a job and made some money to get myself a custom gaming PC. This is where everything went to hell in a hand basket and yet opened me to the world of video games on an addictive level. When I got my current rig, I went to town on my bank account and bought games. I spent it as wisely as I could starting with putting it into games I can play on Steam. I bought the Orange Box which as Team Fortress 2, Half Life 2 series and Portal for a cheap price. I went back to my roots somewhat and got GTA IV, I even stuck around cyberspace to explore the free games it has to offer. Before my 8800 GT GPU died and my hard drive in need a refurbishment, I think I played about the same amount of games I had played in the past over a span of 4-5 years. Which brings us to the last 3 years and now.

Now, I’m stuck to sharing games with others. I like aspects of co-op games and sandboxes. I’m stuck to my old ways where I play games I like. If my play time in Star Trek Online isn’t proof of my past, I don’t know what would prove where I was in the past 3 years. Moving forward, I want to break away from my parents opinions on video games. I want to making a small inkling in playing video games. If I can’t, at least I want to do is share my love for video games to the world at large.

Quick Change

Recently I have been taking stock of the past year; like every year before it, I try and compare myself to the previous year and find what I can do to improve myself. In the ebb and flow of time, the past year has felt more like burning bridges than building them.

From the start, I started out in a low part of my life. I thought six years ago was the lowest part of my life, within a short time I’ve definitely lucked out with the best parts of me. At the same time, I embarked a different things. I began exercising more regularly for starters. It hasn’t yielded results, it is something I want to commit to myself to live better and healthier. I have to admit I haven’t keeping up with it lately, I partially blame the season. The heat is a tad absent and the weather seems a bit more damp. Trust me, I’m trying to be fit and healthy and all that jazz.

Since January, I’ve revived my YouTube channel devoted to sharing games I like to play. For the moment I’ve stayed away from Kerbal Space Program since construction and travel takes awhile to do. Rendezvous with KOLab orbital station takes awhile in vanilla and I would like to play the entire series without the mods available to me. For now, hiatus on KSP but I’m working on playing other games. At the moment in the line-up, I am playing the early access of Interstellar Marines while using IndieDB to find interesting games to play like The Dwarves. Artistically, I have stepped away from making title cards for every video I’m making. I think rather than trying to promote my channel through a video, I should just focus on the gameplay. I’ll still make thumbnails though because it looks cleaner and well organized. A few things I should improve upon should be getting more games to play and demo. This is a bit more complicated because I don’t budget for entertainment stuff in my life. At the moment, my focus is on early access games and free to play. There are a good games that need to be out there than playing the trends. Though I do get into the mainstream and popular games, I want to show you guys the new and obscure games you’re missing.

I noticed my upload schedule has been a bit down lately, it’s for an important reason. I would like to devote more time looking for a job and trying to sort out stuff that’s going on in my life in meatspace. Only if I was a popular YouTuber or had some entrepreneurial prowess to start an internet company that just plays video games. It would be pretty amazing.

Until next time, this thanksgiving I am just thankful that even in all the bad things I don’t want to mention, there are shards of hope and happiness. And I hope this thanksgiving you guys are thankful for the happiness the world has brought upon you.

Summer Festival, Refits, and Shuttles

Star Trek Online has started their 2014 Summer Lohlunat Festival on Risa. Once again like the 2014 Winter Wonderland, I’m not even surprised the goodies in this event involves a ship. Last year’s inaugural festival contained the Risan Corvette, this year we have the Risan Luxury Cruiser. Ever since they released the ship specification, I’ve been comparing it to ships of it’s class and other ships to find a comparatively similar variant. There’s an underlying theme for Risan ships; speed, turn rate and flight speed. From the corvette and the luxury cruiser, they don’t necessary top out as the fastest ships but it comes close to being the fastest. By comparison, the corvette is close to a Tactical Escort and the cruiser this year is close to a Assault Cruiser or a Heavy Cruiser. In an escort, speed is important; not so much on a cruiser but it does help with getting away from sticky situations. In larger ships, you would also have to account for inertia as well; for the cruiser this year, she’s a big girl when it comes to slowing down and speeding up. With double the amount of inertia, it is predictable to see the drift effect seen in the Odyssey cruisers and carriers. Also it would take the ship long to reach top speed, so running in and out of combat would be a bit more difficult. Out of all the analogous ships she can be compared to, the closest resemblance would be the Odyssey for the fact of here lethality and configuration. In the Dev Blog, she boasts 5 engineering consoles, high hull damage and passive subsystem boosts to shields. Along with the obvious Cruiser Comms Array, it solidifies her position as a a busty boat. However what makes her Risan by design aside from the aesthetics is her unrelenting speed and unique console piece which completes the 2-piece set. Overall, I’m a bit excited to own the cruiser, however fitting her for a combat role would be a challenge.

Recently I managed to gather the credits in game to make refits to my Fleet Tactical Escort Retrofit, it was  a pricey operation to get her up to date with the new Fluidic antiproton cannons but it’s slowing paying off. More proof Cryptic pushes endgame with overpowered gear. My main priority now is to get my Jem Hadar Dreadnought ready to go with canon weaponry. At the moment I have most of the weapons excluding the torpedo launchers I need as well as engineering and tactical consoles being unfilled. Once again with my handy dandy escort, console grinding should be relatively simple much like bashing your head against the wall. With both the Dreadnought and Luxury Cruiser now taking up ship slots, I have to put up with grinding dilithum again for Zen for additional ship slots; I am not looking forward to it.

Underutilized, I still believe having an armed shuttle is a priority. With the new Counter-Command rep project and Cryptic releasing shuttle mission variants for a limited time, I managed the opportunity to experiment with the two ship sets. For the most part, the weapons are definitely underpowered when facing races with a high resistance to phaser and disruptor damage. The tactical console is weak considering the small boost to damage compared to other console. The powers provided by the set is really useless in a shuttle setting but the power and shield strength is pretty useful on a shuttle. Though I only tried it on my Delta class shuttle, I think both the stats and the looks make the shuttle useful, however the weapon/console set is off putting because of the lack of damage. I would just prefer an antiproton turret and quantum torpedoes compared to the special phaser turret and photon torpedo. So I scrapped the idea of a Counter-Command shuttle in favour of a mix of items that work well together. Even then, I still need to find more consoles to help me get it all together.

Summer of Star Trek, year two. I think this is the longest game I’ve played ever.

Flashpoint Marathon – “Why isn’t this a video game?”

I can’t get enough of the show; since the finale, I’ve been just watching this chronologically whenever I want to watch to watch a straightforward cop drama. I watched stuff like CSI and Law & Order, it never appealed to me because it was a rinse and repeat method of television with names changed and subtle generic plot twists.

Flashpoint is still the only cop drama I’ve enjoyed because it was live action. The camera work was up close and natural which put the viewer into the situation. The story arcs were mixed and compelling in terms of exploring secondary characters and personalities of the primaries. Revolving around an elite team of police officers similar to SWAT, the show follows the internal and external struggles of law enforcement and the effects it has to the individuals in the team. Fundamentally, the writers did a good job on challenging TV character and item tropes like infinite ammo for the weapons and the good or bad cop. Most surprisingly is the intricate gunplay. When I first watched the entire series, I was on edge wondering when they would shoot someone throughout the series after seeing the first episode. After awhile, the show put you into the frame of mind where there is a grey area where you start to understand when they should use their firearms. In the entirety regardless of whether it was the first or the latest time I’ve watched it, the back of my mind wants this to be a video game.

Let’s assume the best that I was a programmer and I could pull it off, lets visualize this. The pacing should be fairly episodic like you play a character in the story; when you die, that’s the end of the character. So we can assume some extent of character customization like facial customization, body height, voice and maybe character traits. For the episodic pace, likely a mission progression system with key NPC’s reappearing in later content. With that said, I think players would get bored of playing the same missions over an over in a set mode. So probably have some procedurally generated mission system to increase difficulty and positions of NPC’s to offer different scenarios. To make it interesting the levels would have to have a lot of walking room. In my head, it would make sense to have a first person perspective to put the players into their characters. That takes care of the gunplay; the contained scenes where characters negotiate, meaning in game it should have some aspect of that. So an advance AI system that can distinguish combat and negotiation mode and a system that doesn’t necessarily provide right or wrong answers excluding right and wrong answers to diffuse the current situation. There should be a listen and respond component. At the same time, there should be animations to signal mood and behaviour to the player to and respond in a timely manner. Which brings out the animation and the detailing to it. Mostly sticking to face like facial features and body language. In terms of gameplay mechanics, the animations should include things like takedowns seen in Halo and Battlefield 3. Maybe get deeper to that to have a takedown and struggle mechanic where takedowns are more to slow progress and the struggle forces players to go into QTE’s (Quick Time Events) to disarm weapons or escape headlocks. Establishing that, let’s examine the various scenarios which can be in this imaginary game we can make!

In the show I’ve seen a bunch of hostage situations as well as just mentally unstable individuals which can display the AI mechanic, in terms of combat there could be scenarios where players would have to confront situations where it’s non-negotiable. Example would be the player would have to resort into shooting a hostage taker when they feel negotiations aren’t working or have failed. Bomb disposal was part of show in bits so probably have items and mechanics to deal with bomb disposal. So definitely snipping wires could be a thing.

In terms of multiplayer, a lot of games are mostly multiplayer with either a small single player campaign or a tutorial. In this case I think it should be a tutorial and multiplayer to get the basic controls and teach basic game mechanics. The multiplayer would have to co-op since there can be more content and gameplay than just multiplayer for this. The best I could personally see if this was going to be a player versus player would be some sort of deathmatch, Counter-Strike like demolition, or a capture game mode. So not much in terms of being accurate to the show but would remove the AI component. In a cooperative setting, it would likely yield more content in terms of procedural AI spawns, traits and situations. Also allows the character customization to be more important for the player to humanize their character rather be an expendable player especially with certain gameplay traits. Also it opens up opportunity to do things like have AI attack wave after wave.

I wouldn’t be too sure if I would play this but if someone built it and had my attention, I might give it a shot. It would definitely be a change from guns blazing to taking things slow with opportunities to use the weapons and items.

Until next time, keep on daydreaming!