You know, when it’s been long enough between posts that many low-level topics are vying for attention in my head, the best I can do is write one of these grab-bag posts and give them each a short turn at the microphone.
I know I am getting older because it’s becoming much easier to ignore FOMO. Easier, but not impossible, which is why I opted to resub to FFXIV at the point when Squeenix was locking down servers due to the massive crush of players signing up in the wake of the reveal of their next expansion.
Like most of my MMO returns, I opted to start fresh. I I had a bunch of characters across servers which were chosen because of the silly notion that I might actually play with people I know. I had some on Diabalos, and of course on Cactuar. Well, I trashed all of those and rolled on a “recommended” server, Adamantoise (same DC as Cactuar, so not a massive departure).
I have to say, this time I managed to progress much further than ever before. I am sitting at level 31.something as an Archer, and have just completed the quest chain to join a Grand Company and get my personal chocobo mount!
Unfortunately, it’s going to stay in the garage for another indeterminate period, because I cancelled my sub this morning. It was a good ride, but I know that when in the middle of an MMO play session, if I start asking myself “is this really what I want to be doing right now?” then it’s time to cancel the subscription and mothball the game for a spell.
No, this is not to free up space or time for New World.
Still going. I am having a bit of crisis of ideas right now. I had been working on an Aliens-esque APC, but my main issue is that I have a concept but no details, so I end up loading up Blender, futzing around with a vague silhouette, and then disliking the results because it’s not specific enough for what I thought I’d end up with.
At some point I’ll consider drawing out an idea and then taking that into Blender.
On hold. As always
Now here’s a new one. I had been excited about this game when announced, then cool on it when word on the street mentioned that it was pretty monotone, but then got hyped again when I actually played it (it was only $40). It’s not a really in-depth Aliens RPG and it’s not a stealth horror game; it’s the high-ordinance house-cleaning fantasy set in the Alien universe that we’ve all been asking for. The campaign is four chapters broken down into three missions each, and the name of the game is — as you might expect — to survive and complete your mission.
You get to choose which Aliens Colonial Marine archetype you want to play as, out of a pool of standard grunt, heavy gunner, medic, technician, or the brand new phalanx class. The ability and perk selection is well done, presenting a grid on which you can fit your skills by rotating them to fit into available spaces: if you can make em fit, you can take ’em, but otherwise you have to make some hard choices. There’s a lot of character customization, too, including outfits and stickers and weapon skins.
The gameplay is actually very good, if fairly simple. Your team is made up of three people, either all real people, all “synthetic” bots, or a mix. I have to say that the bot AI in this game is no slouch! Playing on “casual” (I’ll get to that), bots Alpha and Beta follow along well, know when to deal with a threat and when to leave off, and when deploy their own abilities like the champs that they are.
There’s two types of gameplay: touch something, and kill. Touch something usually means you have to activate a terminal or pick up and item and bring it somewhere to activate something. Those activities usually result in having to defend a point as waves of enemies start streaming in. And boy, do they stream.
You know in Aliens how the xenos tend to move through air ducts that are convieniently placed where the protagonists are least likely to see them? That happens here. When a wave is triggered, the xenos flow across all surfaces like pissed off ants, and it’s both awesome and terrifying to see. Like the bot companions, the AI used for the xenos is nothing to take for granted, as they will switch surfaces at the drop of a hat on their way to your position. Thankfully you have your handy motion tracker to alert you to when and where they show up.
And no Aliens game would be complete without the distinct audio cues. The pulse rifle is the pulse rifle, launching bullets to with that signature pitch-shifting explosive noise. The motion tracker click-click-click-ping-click-pings suddenly out of nowhere (yes, it will pick up motion behind doors, walls, and happening in the ducts of the map, and yes, it can be terrifying to see those blobs suddenly show up).
Even playing on “casual”, the game can get rough mainly because of the kinetic frenzy inherent in diving into a hive of acid-blooded xenomorphs. We’re not just talking about the rank-and-file scrub xenos, either. There’s a (necessarily) diverse set that have never before been seen in any media from the franchise, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. It doesn’t feel particularly gratuitous that the devs took insane liberties in making up their own creatures to keep players on their toes; most of the time I am too busy running around in circles shooting anything that moves to ponder where these particular forms fit in the Alien cannon.
For $40, I feel I have already gotten my money’s worth, and I fully expect to pick up the season pass at some point.
If I had the stamina, I would write a post to end all posts about Star Citizen and the reality versus perception, but instead I’ll just say that right now I and others in my org are in a holding pattern.
The 3.14 patch was really good, introducing Orison as the last landing zone in the Stanton system. Next up will be jumpgates and the lawless Pyro system sometime in 4.0. Meanwhile, we’re all waiting for patch 3.15, which brings two major updates: health and healing, and physicalized inventory.
I’ve already talked about the health and healing, but the physicalized inventory is a game-changer, and a good bellwether to see exactly how this game has been progressing. Right now, our inventories are just lists of stuff we have access to. There’s no “where is it?”; it’s “in the cloud”. If we want to carry 30 guns and switch to them whenever, we can. We can carry different suits of armor, for combat, cold, or hot environments. We can load up on as much ammo as we can afford.
All of this goes away once physical inventory takes over. In 3.15, we will be limited to what we can carry. We can transfer items from containers to our backpacks, and even drag and drop specific items to specific visual slots on our characters. Because 3.15 is introducing “home” points, we will be able to store items at home, but also in cargo containers, on our ships, and even loot dead bodies. It’s going to make gearing up for a mission so much more tactical when we can’t just Matrix our way into a loadout.
Of course, this seems like a stupidly trite thing to get excited about; all games limit us on inventory, right? Star Citizen had a placeholder system which worked, but only because it had to be there. Now it’s being refined into something more along the lines of what we’d expect to see in a game. It’s iterative, and we don’t normally see these levels of iteration out in the public eye when games are being developed. While it looks like Star Citizen isn’t progressing to some, to those who have been in the ecosystem for a long time and who see changes over time, no matter how incremental or how seemingly inconsequential they might appear to long-time gamers, progress is obvious. /soapbox_off
So right now, I haven’t launched the game in some time, as if feels like there’s a point on the horizon that’s worth waiting for, and that anything at this point is just going to fall short. As if I was psychic, word on the street is that with the 3.15 update we’re going to get a complete database wipe, resetting everyone to baseline cash, inventory, and progress, so any gains I might make in the interim would just get erased anyway when 3.15 drops in [ looks at watch ] a few weeks.
I’ll throw this in because I said I would. Although I would not say that I have mastered React, I feel that I have reached a point where I am comfortable enough with using it on a daily basis that the training wheels are off. I am using it at work (as a glorified test case, really), so it’s literally show time for this technology. As a result, I have decided that I need to move on to another technology. I had considered AWS because I am always in personal need of space and systems for person projects, but the AWS ecosystem is vast and, quite frankly, confusing. I couldn’t make heads or tails of what courses I could take or the benefits of any of them as they might relate to my interests, so I switched gears towards another technology that has been on my to-do radar for some time, Docker.
Let’s see if we can nutshell this: Docker is not a virtual machine, but a way to execute processes in a virtual space. By downloading an “image” of popular software like MySQL, Apache, or even entire Linux distributions, we can set up applications in a flash.
My understanding of this technology was that I would be able to set up, say, a baseline package that contained a database server, maybe a web server, and be able to clone it and store it and then fuck it up as I go. Having the option to drop and reload to baseline would be super helpful for those times when I find myself reinventing the wheel otherwise. Later, when I had a complete project (HAHAHAHAHAHA), I would just deploy the container to a hosting space and “it would just work”.
Although I’m only about 1/3 done with my current class, I don’t think that’s how Docker was intended to be used, at least not the way I had hoped. I am a long-time ASP.NET C# developer who uses IIS out of necessity, and all of that is pretty much baked into the Windows Server OS at a level that is beyond Docker’s reach. When I think about how I could use this for React, I’m still not completely sure how it would all fit together. I considered the time I spend learning how to create a Discord bot, and realized that I could probably create a Linux image with Nodejs, code, and MySQL, which would allow anyone to drop the container into an environment, supply their own Discord App credentials, and have a bot ready to go for a specific purpose, but I’m no longer doing that.
I am looking forward to investigating use cases, because right now I am still “in the reeds” as it were in terms of learning the “what” and “how” of Docker operation.
 I say "in a flash" because Docker started out on Linux due to what I can only assume was someone's disgust at having to install support packages for support packages for other support packages to get a single app to run. While Linux fans might luxuriate in the need to type out long strings of esoteric commands just to get to the point where they can consider starting to think about installing an app, the rest of the world doesn't have time for that bullshit.