X4: Foundation/Timelines

As you might have noticed, I’m actually warming up to X4 and am at the point where I am overwhelmed by everything I have to do in the game, but it’s “kid on Christmas Day” overwhelmed and not “quit my job and burn down the building” type overwhelmed. I am referring to the wiki about ever 15 minutes, but it’s woefully uncomprehensive in some cases — for example, if I hire an NPC to take over another ship, can I do it from anywhere, or do I need to have that ship present at the same location?

That’s neither here nor there, though, as I have the main story to continue with, a station to figure out how to build, and a faction storyline that I’ve started but put aside. Add to that the desire to try free-trading, mining, and the need to explore each sector for maximum opportunity and X4 has now become my Primary Game.

World of Warcraft

I’ve got 10 more levels to go before the end of the Pandaria Remix, which itself has something like 50 days left as of the writing of this post. I went in last night and quickly realized that whatever XP buff had been going on the last time I had played had apparently worn off. I had been leveling once every three or four turn-ins, but I completed about six quests last night and only went up one level.

Of course, now that I’m playing X4 — with Star Citizen’s 3.23.4 patch on the horizon, hopefully — even 10 more levels over 50 days at an accelerated pace might not actually happen.

Other Games

Fun times ahead! The First Descendant, a looter-shooter from Nexon, is releasing on July 2nd. I really enjoyed my hands-on during the alpha and beta periods, so I am looking forward to pre-loading on June 30th and getting into the game on the 2nd.

Another Eastern shooter, Once Human, releases on July 9th, I don’t have a handy map for release times on that, but I will try talking it up to friends who are stuck in a Division 2 shaped rut in the hopes they might be interested in trying this one out for Group Play Nights.


At a time when I hadn’t had the urge to play anything at all, I got the urge to track time for what I was playing. I had never done this in the past because I didn’t really see much value in it, but in my old age I am sure I’ve forgotten more games than I remember. While Steam does some form of time tracking, not every game I play is through Steam.

I looked around for a few apps that might fill the gap and settled on Procrastitracker. This app tracks pretty much everything going on at any given time, over time, with some light filtering options. It’s a bit creepy in the info it has, such as web browsers and the pages you visit, but I guess it does the job well enough.

Steam Video Recording Beta

I was turned on to this by Friend Dusty. If you are running the Steam UI Beta branch, you can now enable in-game recording of any Steam game you’re playing. Session recording seems to be a nascent yet growing market; video card makers usually have their own (like Nvidia Shadowplay), Windows has it’s own (which every software advises people to turn off as a rule, so there’s that), and there are third-party options like Medal.

As with these others, the Steam recorder allows users to record everything (up to 120 minutes before it starts overwriting itself, like a VCR tape), or on demand via hot-key. For games where players might want to isolate clips, another hot-key can be used to put a bookmark. Reviewing and editing videos is supposed to be available through the Steam Overlay as well, and videos can be shared with friends, family, and tea-bagged opponents.

I haven’t been able to actually get this to work though. I played X4 for about an hour last night with “continuous recording” enabled, and when I quit out, I didn’t have anything. The settings say that “raw recordings need to be made clips via the timeline in order to be saved as video files” but I had no video to clip. I won’t rule out the fact that I’m the problem here, but as this feature is still in beta I won’t rule out problems existing at the root, either. I figure I’ll just stick with Medal for the time being, though I’m having audio capture issues with that one, so I guess I just can’t win in this arena.

Project Progress

As I mentioned on Gamepad, I had to move my daughter from Vermont back to New Hampshire last week, and while she drove the UHaul with my wife as co-pilot, I got to fly solo. As is my M.O. I used this time to work out issues I’ve been having with my development project. The issues aren’t entirely technical; I’ve been trying to work out an all-around viable strategy for user management and recognition on the site.

When it comes to aspects such as user management, I am torn between “am I doing enough to protect users and the site?” and “am I over-thinking and overengineering this system”. I’m also the kind of person who likes to design for the end-game from day-one, which sometimes prevents me from making progress in places where a shippable product really is not necessary at the stage I’m at. To those ends, I paralyzed myself by not being satisfied with the look and feel of the wireframe site I had, while also struggling to implement too many features surrounding the user management systems.

As a result of my 3 hour car trip, I convinced myself to ditch some dead-weight (for the time being) in order to streamline the registration and login process. I talked myself out of several back-end features that were no longer relevant, and had a CTJ discussion — with myself — about what really needed to happen. As a result, I reached a point where the user management stuff from the public side of the site is working as expected, the custom server is working as expected to support this aspect, and I am able to move forward with the actual purpose of the site.

3D Modeling

While I’d been hemmin’ and hawin’ about the development project, I had once more gotten the urge to 3D model. With a new PC with significantly more horsepower, I wanted to see what kind of a difference that would make when working with larger models, too.

I reinstalled Blender and followed my own self-help guide to setting up the environment and installing the plug-ins that I have come to rely on, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten with the actual app. Meanwhile, I re-subbed to CGCookie and have been revisiting their “Fundamentals” playlist which includes several courses on “learning the UI” — which has taught me some tricks I hadn’t picked up on the last time I watched it about 5 years ago — as well as shaders and textures. What I cannot get is help coming up with ideas for models, but that’s on me.

One thing I really want to learn now is the node editor UI and everything it encompasses. At the “most basic” (heavy quotes, those) this is the shader editor, but over the past few iterations, Blender has been expanded to allow for procedural geometry generation as well. I don’t expect to get anywhere recognizable with either, as they both dive deep below the surface of what Blender (and what I’ve been using, Substance Painter) abstract, but I feel mostly comfortable enough doing the actual hard surface modeling, and I want to try to expand beyond that.

As an added bonus, CGCookie has a learning track for using Blender to create motion graphics and a course on 2D camera tracking. One of the things that I loved doing in After Effects was putting 3D models in 2D video, but doing so required either additional software I didn’t have (Cinema 4D) or nice but confusing third party add-ons (I cannot remember the name of the app I used to use…). Apparently now AE can import 3D models directly, which is nice, but I’m not paying the Adobe Tax to get access to what for me is a hobbyist tool, since now Blender seems to be starting to stake a claim in the VFX realm.

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