Here’s a gratuitous shot of the new PC… sans one rather important item.

The first test run of power flowing through the system went well, which was good, since I’d been building it very leisurely and piecemeal an hour a day or so, in between gaming sessions, in no real hurry since I don’t have my graphics card anyway.

Last I heard, it was in Hong Kong somewhere. (Sheesh. Oh well, it gives me a lot of time to transition over slowly. I’m still trying to figure out the best arrangement of new PC and old PC on and around the desk, which is also overflowing with monitors, speakers and other computer paraphernalia.)

Anyway, when powered on, all the LEDs lit up in a really cool fashion. I knew there were four red LEDs on the after-market CPU cooler, but I didn’t know that the motherboard also had red indicators, which was a neat bonus.

I didn’t smell smoke. Good sign, that. The fans were spinning (but oh so very silently, it was amazing!) and there were words on the monitor I’d hooked up.


Admittedly, the words were something obtuse like “Boot sector disk not detected. Please press a key to boot from DVD, CD or other optical device” or something along those lines. Which, of course, wouldn’t work anyway since there was no boot disc in the Blu-Ray drive to begin with.

But hey, no crashes, no black or blue screens of death, so far so good. Power button seemed to be working.

Slotted in the Windows 7 disc, powered it back up again (yes, the reset button works!) and the OS installed effortlessly. A lot more cleanly and faster than my previous go at it upgrading from Win XP to Win 7.

Some of the speed, no doubt, has to be credited to the SSD.

I wanted to check the BIOS after Windows installed successfully, and I had to reset it three times to do so.

The first time, I’d barely read the BIOS message telling me what keys to press for what option, before the system jumped straight into loading Windows. And boy, did the desktop come up fast. In seconds. It doesn’t match an iPad, but it was coming pretty close. I guess I really have been living in the past with a Windows startup that takes minutes.

The second time, I tried to press the Del key to bring up the BIOS, because I -thought- that was the key that the superquick message that flashed by said to use. And I apparently didn’t press it fast enough, because it was zipping directly to Windows 7 desktop again. Hello, stock Win 7 blue/green background thingy. I really wanted the BIOS, though.

On the third try, I spammed the Del key multiple times and voila, success! Took me into the UEFI BIOS, which uses a much slicker graphical interface than I’m used to seeing. T’was pretty cool scanning all the options.

Resting/idle CPU temperature was 27-28 degrees Celsius, about 3-4 degrees higher than room temperature (yes, I baby my computers with air conditioning, a tropical climate is harsh otherwise.) So far so good on that too. Hopefully that means I didn’t screw up processor or CPU fan/cooler installation or the thermal paste application in an obvious fashion.

Stress testing with a this-generation game will, unfortunately, have to wait until my graphics card gets off the slow boat… from Hong Kong. (It’s only, what, 8 hours passenger flight time? Guesses whether it actually arrives in 8 days… or 8 weeks.)

I did grab the Eidos Anthology bundle from Steam in preparation though – Deus Ex Human Revolution, Hitman: Absolution, Tomb Raider, Thief, the works. Lots of stuff that I’d been putting off and letting it depreciate over the months and years, knowing that my toaster wasn’t going to handle these FPS type games well.

Dishonored at the Christmas Steam sale, methinks.

And by the time I’m done with all of this, Civ: Beyond Earth will hopefully be 50% off or more on the -next- Summer Steam sale. *wry grin*

In the meantime, here, have more gratuitous pictures:


Front of the case has a very clean look, with metal mesh allowing airflow.

The top slides back to reveal a small cubbyhole for placing objects in, and USB ports and the power/reset switches.


I’d previously had the impression that this was hinged. It’s not, which is a little bit of a letdown, and leaves me in a mild dilemma over “leave it fully open for convenience, but block top air flow” or “get in the habit of closing it regularly and sliding it back when one needs access to the ports” or something in between.

Still, it does slide fairly cleanly, so it’s not exactly a struggle to open and close it. (It’s just that I fear I’d break it one day overdoing opening and closing.)

Popping the front panel off, there’s a removable dust filter behind the metal mesh!


I find this rather nifty, since in comparison, my old Cooler Master Centurion case only had some pieces of soft foam as a dust filter. (And the vacuum cleaner ate one when I was a little slow one day and forgot to hold the small pieces of foam down.)


Removable dust filter on the bottom as well!

And yes, those are rubberized feet.

There’s ventilation pretty much everywhere on this case – the bottom, the top, the front, the back, only the sides have no air holes.

If you wanted a side fan, I guess you’d have to get the standard non-windowed version, which does appear to have air holes and room to screw a side fan onto.


But really now, I think we’re pretty much overcompensating for something with the front fan already.


It’s ginormous.

Really, pictures cannot do it justice.

Nor can the specs. I’d read 200mm fan and sort of nodded my way past it. I’d read the reviews, and said, ok, it’s a pretty big fan, that sounds very nifty indeed.

You really have to see this thing in person as you pop the front panel off and go, “Oh my god, they put a jet engine propeller on the case!”

What’s super impressive about this is that you’d expect it to sound like a leaf blower or something, but it’s been utterly silent under low non-stressful conditions so far. It’s more quiet than my old computer, which has a faint but audible hum that I’ve gotten used to.

The engineering and design of these cases never fail to impress me over the years.

Seven to eight years ago, the whole concept of tool-free compartments to hold hard disks and optical drives with some fancy schmancy designed plastic in place of metal screws was already quite spectacular, to say nothing of the hand-screwable two screws that hold in place the side window.

With this new Cooler Master CM690 III case, those similar innovations are there, just made better with iteration over time. Both sides are removable, one with a window, while the other side has an indentation outward to make more room for wire and cable management behind the motherboard.


Here’s the slightly more cable-managed version that I took some time to putter around with, after establishing that it could actually turn on and run. (Aka, I didn’t screw up any wires connecting to the wrong places.)

Really nice design. There’s little rubber curtains to slot wires through.

The amount of hard disk storage slots is quite stunning, and I’m really amused by the latest newfangled innovation in tool-free removable hard disk trays.


These things are pretty durned cool.

They slide all the way closed and become just wide enough for a 2.5″ disk.

SSDs get a little propping up via some fold-down plastic ‘shelves’ – the one on the right side of both pictures is folded down.

Or you can pull them open and resize them to fit a 3.5″ HDD perfectly too, with little metal rods that fit into the screw holes, and white rubber rings to reduce vibration around those rods.

One identical design, making it easy for a factory to mass produce tons of these, and then bang, they all go into any case Cooler Master wants.

Very very clever.

You can actually widen the top cage to fit 3.5″ hard disks if you wanted, and you can also screw in 2.5″ SSDs in the 3.5″ configuration using the bottom screw holes provided.

Ridiculously clever.

It makes the thought of adding or changing storage space so easy that it almost feels wasteful for me to only occupy 3 slots. Guess there’s upgrading potential there.

That’s the far future though.

I’ll be happy with the near future, once the gaping hole in the middle of the space is filled up with you-know-what.

Soon(TM). Or so they tell me.

BRB, Found the Best Game Ever

Yes, I am aware that the Blood and Madness Halloween update just launched in Guild Wars 2, with plenty of recycled old content giving new rewards.

Yes, I know it comes with a talking point so loaded that it’s just -asking- to be commented upon.

Yes, I am cognizant of the fact that most of the launch locusts are still in Archeage, focused upon the best made plans disintegrating in contact with other players and not really interested in anything else but the strange jargon of that world.

Or that the Warlords of Draenor expansion is soon to be upon us, so all the WoW stalwarts will make their way back home.

Yes, much of my singleplayer game attention is still being sucked up by Minecraft, where I’m trying to play both Agrarian Skies and Crash Landing without forgetting what the hell I was doing in the other map, while accumulating a list of other mods and modpacks that look damn interesting to “try one day.”

And thanks to Bragtoberfest and other bloggers, it’s suddenly occurred to me that:

a) Team Fortress 2 is kinda fun and I should make a point to play it more

b) Path of Exile still exists

c) Orcs Must Die 1/2 and Defense Grid 1/2 are both tower defense games I should play more of (yes, I actually Kickstarted DG2, and finally got around to checking my mail and found a Steam key waiting for me)

d) I haven’t played/continued Skyrim for a while, nor have I really given Civ 5 or various Tropico versions a fair shake in a bit

and e) I need to stop looking at my Steam games list again.

BUT I have found a game even better than all of the above, and it is likely to take up much of my attention for the week, with not much time left over for blogging once I factor in trying to keep apace in GW2 and sating a currently insane Minecraft addiction.

What game is that, you ask?

It’s something I haven’t had the opportunity to play in years. It’s the “contemplate and plan, then build your own dream PC” or the “endless wallet daydream” game.

Yep, my budget’s finally opened up the purse strings this month.

I’ve been reading computer hardware reviews actually dated this year, scanning the catalogue of parts available at the local store, narrowing down the choices to “things I want” and “things that fit my current priorities for this new computer” then applying the filter “things I can actually afford.”

That filter is pretty generous this month, which why I’m playing the game now, rather than a year ago or 2 or 3 or more, where I would feel awfully depressed and constricted with too low a budget.

See, here’s the odd thing about what I like out of my computers.

It’s not so much their objective performance as compared to everyone else at a current point in time (in which case, I would have to upgrade a lot and fast to keep up with the Joneses) but more that I want the computer I build for myself to be a lasting, quality piece of work. That it was pretty high-end, if not the absolute top-of-the-line, -when- it was built, at that period of time.

The Chinese have a saying, ” 一分钱一分货” (yī fēn qián yī fēn huò), which sorta literally translates to “one piece of money one piece of goods” or rather, you get what you pay for.

If you pay pennies, you’ll get goods worth that amount or basically, rubbish. For each cent or dollar extra that you pay, you get that amount of goods/value/worth/quality in return.

Like all proverbs, that doesn’t necessarily hold true all the time, but speaking generally, I find there’s more than a few grains of truth in it.

My old and current computer, as much as I joke about it to others (mostly to explain why my load times or graphics is way behind the current norm,) is still going strong, with not much breaking down beyond one X-Fi soundcard that decided that its drivers simply wouldn’t play nice with this newfangled Windows 7 any longer (ended up yanking it and falling back on the on-board Realtek audio – just as old if not older, and doing just fine – and some rattling case fans that took turns to protest that they were getting way too dust clogged at last (some reluctant cleaning took care of that – the front fan was a nuisance as graphics card and hard disks had to be pulled out of the way to work on it.)

I believe the reason it’s lasted so long, going on 7-8 years now, is because I bought good quality parts from known brands that generally do solid work and didn’t skimp or cut corners while doing so.

That priority is one of the factors I’m weighing quite heavily in my next selection of parts, along with the usual suspects of “great games performance” and “not insanely priced.”

Granted, I might have gotten a mite carried away at -finally- seeing the light at the end of the “new computer” tunnel and splurged a bit while I can afford it this month.

Without further ado, the parts list:

  • CPU: Intel Z97 4690
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte Z97X UD5H Black
  • Memory: Corsair Vengeance Pro 1866Mhz 16GB
  • Graphics Card: Gigabyte GTX 980 G1 Gaming
  • Power Supply: Corsair HX750i 750W
  • Case: CoolerMaster CM690 III windowed
  • CPU Cooler: CoolerMaster V4 GTS
  • Hard Disks: 2 Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSDs, 1 WD Black 7200rpm 1TB HDD
  • Optical Drive: LG16x Blu-Ray BH16NS40
  • OS: Windows 7
  • (To be added in November) Sound Card: Creative Soundblaster ZX
  • Monitor and speaker upgrades pending…

Words can’t describe how thrilled I am.

Here, have a little Ascii cheer instead.


As to the rationale:

As much as I would have liked to open the wallet even further and get one of those crazy X99 chipset processors with a super-blinged out motherboard, there IS a limit to my enthusiasm, and it sounded like a good idea to wait for the real enthusiasts to be the guinea pigs and break in all the new technology first.

I’d been leaning towards a Z97 4790K processor, except that I didn’t think experimenting with overclocking and possibly burning out what was intended to be my next stable and reliable gaming computer was a good idea, plus there were some mildly scary reports that this particular i7 processor was seriously overheating. After reading the whole rather current thread, it suddenly seemed wise to sit on the idea for a while and let the early adopters hash it out with Intel. Also, perhaps in six months to a year, the X99 processors would have gotten more affordable and the whole thing might be a moot point.

So I backed down step-wise to a 4690 and decided that I’d just go with the stock clock – since the priority for this particular computer, after all, is to be a worthy successor to the one that I’m typing on right now, old and still hearty.

I’ll save the creative and experimental overclocking or dream watercooling setups (had quite enough of unlikely water leaks over electronics, thank you) for when my budget can next afford a more modest hobbyist build computer – perhaps salvaging the guts of the old one after the new one is up and running and stable enough to let me log on daily to GW2 without freaking out that I’m missing a laurel reward. 🙂

The same thought of reliability led to picking up that particular Gigabyte motherboard.

I briefly considered Asus, since that seemed to be one of the stronger rivals, but decided that aesthetically, the whole armor-encased look didn’t quite work for me. The marketing jargon went rather overboard with the military-sounding stuff, and I rather imagine it might appeal to those who play some variant of Battlefield or Call of Duty all day long perhaps.

The whole plastic shield over the motherboard did look interesting, but it also struck me that it looked more like a dust trap when air blew up through the little wind tunnels – possibly improving air flow over the components, yes, right up to the point when dust jammed into all the nooks and little crevices, necessitating maintenance via needing to unscrew the plastic shield off, just to remove the dust.

So I backed away from that and decided to head back to Gigabyte, whose DSP4 motherboard is still doing excellent work in my current system.

They, on the other hand, have gotten carried away with quite a bit of game and audio-related bling, with a whole series of Gaming motherboards that apparently come with a special Killer NIC that prioritizes gaming packets, with the top of the line versions sporting a built-in Creative Soundcore 3D processor and what not.

Now, hang on a minute, I thought, I know I have a fondness for Creative audio solutions (from old good reputation and they’re a Singapore company), didn’t I -just- have the worse time trying to get their stupid drivers to play nice with Windows 7, granted on a card that’s marked “end of service life”?

And I’ve heard reports that folks have problems too with the drivers for the Killer NIC, and that it does use up extra CPU processing power…

I drooled over all the marketing bling for a while, then decided that for a motherboard, what I really wanted was redundancy.

As much as it sounded nice to just have a Creative chip on the motherboard itself, saving the need and money for a separate sound card, one can’t exactly pluck it out if it’s giving problems. I may as well just pay the extra 40 or 50 bucks and get a separate sound card, which would still have the same processor and possibly better components and supporting software, AND have a Realtek audio solution on the motherboard to fall back on, if/when the Creative shit decides it wants to break down. (It’s such NICE sounding shit though.)

Ditto, I didn’t just want a Killer NIC as my only connection to the internet. What if it decides it won’t play nice one day?

Fortunately, Gigabyte did have some motherboards that have both an ordinary Intel LAN and a Killer LAN. And it also so happened that this was on one of their ultra durable range, which goes through extended durability testing and with a warranty of up to 5 years.

Now that sounds like something that would meet my goal of having a computer built sturdy enough to last the next 5-7 years, if necessary.

Imo, the RAM’s fairly normal, if higher-end. Corsair’s a known brand.

I did drool a ton over the thought of their Dominator Platinum RAM, which just looks ridiculously blinged out and dead sexy, with soft white LED lights that would light the interior of the case… but sanity prevailed over serious temptation and I decided paying an extra hundred bucks for slick design and LED lighting was not something I oughta do at this point in time. (Maybe someday… *sighs dreamily*)

No, what I did, was I threw the wallet at the graphics card instead.

As far as I’ve gathered from reading, the GTX 980s are pretty much the newest thing on the block currently, but not dumb expensive expensive. Just expensive, but with really good performance and better power-savings and cooler temperatures than prior cards. I’m, in fact, still waiting for the shop to call me when their shipment arrives, because it’s that new, I guess, and still in transit from country to country.

I briefly entertained the thought of getting the GTX 970, which is a step down, but maybe getting two of those and SLI them together. Then I decided to leave that as a hobbyist project for the other dream computer and go with a single card solution for now, which is probably less likely to end up with a whole bunch of troubleshooting problems with specific games or programs.

Stable. Reliable. Durable. That’s the hope, anyway.

Same goes for the power supply, which isn’t the absolute high-end, but the next closest. It’s got a 7 year warranty, which I suppose, ought to count for something.

One mild annoyance I’ve encountered is that the 24-pin ATX connector is not fitting properly, either with the motherboard or the power supply. It goes in, but not all the way. There’s a couple of milimeters of gap, blocking the clip from clasping properly. After some Googling, I suspect it may be a common manufacturing defect from whatever company Corsair got those connectors from, as it seems to be turning up as an issue in other types of Corsair power supplies. It’s just that particular wire. All the rest of the wires fit fine.

So the build is on hold for now, while one pays a visit to the local distributors/repair center to make some noise and gripe until they hopefully give me a satisfactory solution to make me go away.

I’m still quite zen about the whole thing. I suppose I’ve already waited so long, a couple more days or a week won’t really hurt.

I’ll try to share some pictures at some point later.  I’m in love with the case. It’s a really cool case. Some really clever engineering in this one, plus a ginormous front fan.

I’m looking forward to having SSDs for Windows, Guild Wars 2 and current Steam games I’m playing that might benefit from those load speeds, while the rest of the Steam library, music and what not goes on the HDD.

I’ll confess I’m not exactly thrilled with the choice of a WD Black hard disk – Western Digital has not really struck me as a brand that makes stable, long lasting hard disks – it’s just practically the only brand the local store had in stock, that still had a decent warranty period… I decided not to go crazy on the terrabytes as a result, didn’t want excessive amounts of spinning platters, or a giant hard disk that would make backing up of data to external disks difficult. I suppose there’s room for this disk to surprise me.

After all, I’ve got Maxtor and Seagate hard disks in the current computer, and while I’m still somewhat pessimistic about how long they’ll last, so far so good… and this is an old computer, as I’ve said.

We’ll see. I suspect the best solution is just to get plenty of affordable hard disks and make multiple redundant copies of the data one wants to keep. If one disk fails, there’s still others, that kind of thing.

I’ve no clue if the Blu-Ray drive is any good, it’s just also what was available. As long as it does what it’s supposed to, it can’t be that different from any other brand.

The sound card’s not essential, and there’s a ubiquitous computer fair in my part of town coming up in November, so it’s earmarked for pickup then. Spares my wallet just a tide this month too.

One will have to cannibalize and use the existing monitor, speakers, keyboard, mouse and other such peripherals for the time being.

So yep, those are the big plans taking up most of my mind and time, front and center, for now.

I’ve already hauled home a good amount of the parts and am midway through the build, pending a graphics card and a properly fitting 24-pin ATX connector. Two more outside errands to run. No idea when the card will get here though.

Gonna take it nice and slow and savor every moment, inhaling all the new and shiny. That’s part of the fun of building yer own computer, imo.

I’ll see you all, when I next see you. Computer building time’s got to come in front of blogging time, though it needs to share some space with gaming time.

Hopefully soon(TM), I’ll actually have screenshots on this blog that belong in this decade.

P.S. Does this count as Bragtoberfest? It should, right? Like, look at my soon-to-be system specs, whee! *brag brag brag*





(touches wood)

Bragtoberfest: Killing Time

Yep, that seems to describe what I’ve mostly been up to in the last few days.

One is still waiting for Halloween and the pace of regular updates to rev back up again in GW2, so until then I’ve nothing much to do but spread out my attention in a million places at once.

I’ve contented myself with dailies pretty much every day but Oceanic Friday, where I join TTS for a whole sequence of “raids” that go from easy to ‘needs organization’ to ‘needs organization and patience, but ain’t really hard.’

That’s karka queen – just show up and hit stuff, Tequatl – just show up early enough to get a spot on the map, kill as many dragons as the leaders feel like spawning and face the only tough decision of which alt to bring next, Triple Trouble Wurm – just show up to wait so that you get a spot on the very coveted map, wait for the leaders to explain everything to the new people, and perform the roles/functions you’re used to do, and finally guild missions – just show up to marvel at how 50+ people are herded from place to place without losing -too- many people, and try not to watch the clock too impatiently.

(I guess you could call that a whole bunch of scheduled “killing times,” if not raids per se.)

That sequence without weekly guild missions could be a nightly affair if I wanted to attend, but since I’m sorta on an attention break from GW2, I may as well not push the repetition too hard.

Dabbling with Orcs Must Die is, of course, a lot of orc killing time.

Playing with Mountain involves a lot of -actual- killing of time. (I mostly surf the internet alongside, or risk overloading my computer by running a Feed the Beast launcher server setup for single player and a Minecraft client while Steam and Mountain are going. Poor Core 2 Duo 2.3 Ghz processor.)


There’s a certain wisdom to my mountain.

It’s officially called MOUNTAIN, by the way, because it needs a certain gravitas, but Doone nagged and nagged until I gave in and gave it an alias.

So now it’s MOUNTAIN aka Puppy.

It picked up a trash can that almost looked like a grey candle and a gramophone.

On the other side, it apparently wants to go on an around-the-world sailing trip or something.


Oh, and there’s a companion crate.

I also figured out how to pick up objects and more or less, rearrange them. It involves a lot of holding down of the left mouse button over the object in question,  and stopping and moving the mouse cursor just outside the window as the object flies into the air.

Done just right, it pauses long enough to mess around with the mouse cursor in and out of the window, shoving the oftentimes invisible object around until the angle is -just- right, and then clicking the left mouse button one more time to send it thudding back to land.

So I’ve taken the opportunity to shove under the rug (or under the mountain, so to speak) the objects I find unsightly or that don’t quite fit. Goodbye pathetically modeled clock and very boring gramophone with apparently only one song.

MOUNTAIN continues on.

Then there’s self-killing time.

I seem to be between goals and feeling rather aimless in my Agrarian Skies map for Minecraft currently, so I took a break to try out the Crash Landing mod.

Wow. Let’s just say I now know why the designer of that mod made it so that the “create a new world” button will automatically set you up in the appropriate Crash Landing map.

Thirst and maintenance of a cool temperature are just as important as not-starving in this mod. So the initial start is a rather tough trial-and-error process (at least, if you’re not cheating and getting tips/ideas from others who’ve done it before) where one wastes a lot of crucial start time just exploring and poking around and figuring out what the heck is going on, which leads to eventual death from thirst, or heatstroke, or maybe starvation, because one basically ran out of resources before a self-sustaining loop could be set up.

Then there’s night. The zombies are cranked up viciously in this mod – there’s infernal mob prefixes and suffixes going on, I think, as well as a great variety of buffed variants – I saw one zombie flying on a mini-ghast once. I’ve died multiple times to impatience because I got bored waiting out the night in a confined area and tried to kill a few zombies…. it never quite works out to -just- a few. They just keep sidling their way in, if I’m dumb enough to open the door.

(I’ve now given in and am going to follow a suggested start strategy which goes for a bed established before night 1, for future attempts. Because it’s really boring otherwise.)

Still, I keep dying to -something- or other before I can even get a dirt/tree or simple water loop going. And there goes that game and that world.

So, there’s plenty of room for further tries and improvement there.

Finally, attending today’s Bragtoberfest FPS event added up to plenty of mob wave killing time.

Izlain made an executive decision to go for the Mann vs Machine mode in TF2, since that was a way to get everybody in the same party and  on the same server.

This turned out to be a rather nice state of affairs, as it’s much harder (for me anyway) to find a sizeable group of people playing co-op together.

Prior attempts at this mode didn’t turn so well in normal pickup server mode – a couple of wave failures means individuals quit in droves. A regular group like we had gamely gives it a go a few times, and then changes tactics, or adjusts difficulty or changes maps as a last resort or something if it doesn’t work out. Bottom line, it’s done together, whatever it is.

This mode is really fun if played this way. A whole group of players cooperate to defend against waves of bots, instead of other players. Said bots are naturally a bit more buffed up than usual to make it challenging. And there’s plenty of shiny loot drops for doing well too – I seem to have gotten a lot more TF2 stuff than I’m used to.

As suspected, ping times were a mite challenging. The first few games chanced to be on EU servers, probably somewhere in Great Britain. This gave lovely ping to our UK folks, but I was pretty much watching a delayed slideshow for the first game. Then I dc’ed. Or the server gave up on me. Or my own computer running PotatoOS decided it couldn’t render the frames anymore. Who knows.

Ping times were jumping from 388ms up to 600ms and back again.I made a hasty readjustment of resolution down from a normal 1920×1080 down to about 1024 x 768.

This at least took out stress on my ancient computer from the equation, and left me playing on the second server at a more steady 400ms.

(I kinda want to laugh at that phrase.)

One was kind of playing ‘predictively’ with that sort of ping. See something in the distance? Empty a clip into it, wait a couple seconds, and hope a kill is registered.

Woe betide me if a mob actually comes up close to me, because I’ll probably be dead before I can fire off a shot. Just wait a second for the death screen to come up and then respawn, that kinda thing.

The good news is that I went for my old fallback of being an engineer, and no one else in the group was really grappling with me over wanting to be one of the two engineers we were allowed to have.

As I shared in-game, the lovely thing about the Team Fortress genre (Classic and 2) is that there’s a niche and a class for people with crap aim and even crap ping.

The sentry gun auto-aims, and the sentry gun doesn’t lag.

Where the human mainly comes in, is in the tactical placement and maintenance of the sentry gun.

Other people can get their kicks from being a fast actiony super reflexes scout or a super-pinpoint accurate sniper, me, I get my kicks from seeing my sentry gun rack up a disgusting number of kills – because -I- put it there.

The cleverer and more defensive the position, the better, though that sort of thing mostly takes experimentation and watching what others do and time playing the game to see what works or doesn’t.


I mean, really now, what other shooter can you walk around with 400+ms ping, and get respectable amounts of overall damage in (even on the tank), get kills/assists AND heal/support other people, regardless of how many times you died from not even seeing what shot you in the face or back.

(Sniper, spy, demoman bomb or soldier rocket, usually. Maybe a few Sentry Busters because I miss seeing it walk up and by the time it squats and triggers itself, it’s too late to run with my ping.)

And as much as I dislike the medic class in TF2, as compared with the old TFC one which was all about offensive medic’ing and concussion grenade jumps (my favorite opponents and opposite number nemesis, as a flag-defending engineer), I have to admit it fulfills the *groan* now commonly accepted “healer” niche trained by the ye-olde standard traditional MMO.

You know, the niche that the stereotypical girlfriend is expected to like to do.

Sometimes, I don’t know what makes me cringe more, someone expecting that all girls will naturally gravitate towards this role or bringing it up as an example ‘my first game’ ‘easy to cope with’ playstyle, or to hear an actual girl admit that she actually likes the niche. (It’s like, great, more stereotype confirmation, but I mean, what can you do if some people really like to play healer? Let them, I guess. And personally try to play more games without a pure holy trinity.)

Not that we had that problem here. We rarely had a medic running during the Bragtoberfest event, and we still succeeded, so there. Nyah. And all that.

Without a medic or uber-charge god mode, there’s still health packs to pick up on one’s own, or humping an engineer’s dispenser and so on.

And if you really really like to heal people, then, sure, be a medic and no one will mind you shadowing them and pumping them full of health and uber-charge either. There’s a place for you too *sighs*

Jjust as there’s a place for the ‘boom headshot’ people in the sniper class, or the ‘lots of explosions hee hee hee’ folks in the demoman and soldier classes (depending on if you like ’em timed traps or linear BFG style) or the ‘my aim’s not great, but I’m happy to hold down the left mouse button and vaguely point in a direction” HWguy (I play that a lot too) or the “I love being sneaky and ganking people from behind and driving them apeshit” spy.

Eventually that server up and shut down on us, which was even a better silver cloud in the lining, because we moved to an NA server after that.Our UK folks got around 175 ping, but I got to a presentable and playable 250ms ping, which is decent enough to actually attempt shooting and getting some semi-on-time feedback on the screen.

I didn’t have the faintest clue what guns I was carrying – apparently playing TF2 at some ancient time ago, I equipped myself with a Frontier Justice shotgun and a Lugermorph pistol.

The Frontier Justice shotgun was a little useless to me at only 3 shots a clip, facing a horde of robot mobs, with shaky aim and unreliable ping. I -think- it might have had a purpose in a lower ping flag defending type of game where I set up a little killbox with my sentry gun and need something to quickly off an opposing player from behind as he or she is taking out my sentry gun.

I didn’t use it much in the Mann vs Machine games, but I did get a very surprising amount of mileage out of the Lugermorph.

On just checking the wiki now, it’s apparently functionally identical to the standard Pistol engineers get (go figure, at least this F2P game isn’t P2W in this respect) but I was quite pleased to see it had a very large clip size, and there were store upgrades (as in the Mann vs Machine mode has an in-game store as part of its game mode, to buy upgrades, like Counterstrike and so on) to increase firing speed and clip capacity.

As we killed each wave of mobs, we earned some cash that could be spent to buy that-game-only upgrades, and I found that increasing both those things pretty much gave me a machine gun in the shape of a pistol. Just hold down and all the bullets would come out.

It’s also hitscan, so I didn’t have to compensate for lag and lead targets (a skill I’m quite poor at.) As long as I hit it between the crosshairs on my screen, my client would eventually tell the server and everybody else that I did hit what I hit. Eventually. 400 or 200ms later.

While the damage fell off quite a bit at long range, assisting with kills was something to do while waiting for the mobs to get within sentry gun range. Plus, there was running up to a slow moving tank and emptying entire clips of it at point-blank range if it had moved out of range of my sentry gun (and the gun was still needed where it was to fend off other mobs.)

Good fun all around.

Then it was on to Killing Floor, a game I only got to play once upon a time, during some kind of Steam sale event which was dangling special Steam achievements in oddball games.

I found it a rather respectably amusing shooter, with hidden depth I was probably not appreciating from not having a regular co-op play group and only trying it out in random multiplayer and solo.

Being that it was being showcased on Steam’s free-to-play weekend, I thought this would be a good opportunity to persuade a bunch of other people to try it out with me too. Izlain was game, and kindly organized the group over to cooperatively shoot zombies in a ‘survival horror’ FPS.

It’s an old game, and it no doubt shows its age.

But I dunno, it has a certain charm that fascinates me despite clunky bits like visiting the store repetitively between phases (though I think ideally, we were supposed to head towards it together – but everyone just sorta naturally freaked out, stayed with our backs to each other and tried not to get swamped by zombies which closed in on all sides.)

I think primarily, it’s the variance in mission maps that holds its biggest appeal for me.

We started out in a really claustrophobic biohazard sewer-like tunnels / secret mad scientist’s lab level. Then we went on to a considerably more open, but very dark, farm fields with a barn and a farmhouse that one can shut oneself in. And after that, if I’m remembering correctly, we turned up in a post-apocalyptic sort of London, where the streets were open, but the underground was dark.

During my previous go at Killing Floor, I seem to remember a carnival of clowns map too.

There’s a hyperreal sort of immersion from these maps – they’re not 100% realistic, but they’re sort of characteristically ‘representative’ of the tropes one might expect in these settings, and you can imagine yourself using strategies like barricading yourself into a building and so on.

There’s a big variety of weapons to choose from in the store in between waves, depending on how well you did shooting zombies.

There’s a lot of different types of zombie mobs – from crawlers that almost look dead but can leap at you with surprising speed, to stalkers that are almost invisible, and near-miniboss-types that shoot flaming rockets at you or shriek or do other kinds of odd things.

Some deserved criticism was leveled at it for having some really repetitive voice-overs (everyone was pretty sick of the “Reloading” notifications coming from a party of SIX people after a while) but other than that, I keep thinking there’s a lot of potential depth and fun to be had if one played more regularly.

The challenge level is pretty high, right from the start. We were on Normal most of the time, and our inexperienced party usually got destroyed around Wave 3. We were taking quite a bit of damage from zombie encounters, barely anyone had figured out crucial things like what weapons were available or how to heal up (mid-second game I finally figured out that one was supposed to heal others with a injector syringe thing that everyone appears to get) and dying in this game punishes the player and team quite severely – you can’t respawn till the wave completes, you lose all your weapons and get no money to buy more stuff from the shop for that round.

(It might, however, be possible to pick up and drop weapons for others. I know somewhere in the second game I somehow managed to pick up a second pistol from someone who’d died. It might maybe make sense that one might be able to drop spare weapons for others.)

Ammo conservation is an issue. You need to spend money to get more ammo. So six people shooting one normal zombie might not be the best strategy ever. (We ended up sort of three / three facing two different directions quite naturally.)

There’s no crosshairs. There’s only right mouse button to bring up iron sights for better aim, which then makes you more stationery. It all contributes to that sense of “realism” – though it’s really not the right word to use. It’s more a simulation of complexity, which gives rise to verisimilitude?

Some guns have more recoil than others. Reloading takes time. Some zombie hits will stun you. That sort of thing. Little details. Mostly making things harder, but also more immersive, in a horror sense, and forcing a need for teamwork and cooperation. No rambos here. Or chances are, they’ll be short-lived anyway.

We eventually bumped the difficulty down to Beginner for last game, which definitely made it more palatable for newbies. Less damage from zombies, more money from each wave meant we could afford more and better weapons, which in turn makes it easier to hose down zombies and gave us more room to maneuver and try out the different weapons.

I was entertaining myself with a Medic Gun at the end, which was some kind of combination MP5 submachine gun to shoot zombies with, and had healing darts fired with the middle mouse button. Now one didn’t have to run up to a player and hope he or she stopped for long enough to get healed. I could just dart him in the butt instead. Healing arrows! Whee!

For actual zombie killing work, I was quite enjoying the Bullpup. Which kindly has a nice holographic weapon sight that painted a red dot over whatever I was aiming at. Much easier for me to land a hit that way.

Lots of fun. Had a great time.

So how can you tell me you're lonely, And say for you that the sun don't shine? Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London I'll show you something to make you change your mind
So how can you tell me you’re lonely,
And say for you that the sun don’t shine?
Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London
I’ll show you something to make you change your mind

GW2: Rainment of the Lich

Ah, the power of nostalgia.

So much luv.

Way back in Guild Wars 1 history, when the Hall of Monuments came out and I finally resolved to make a proper semi-optimized go at it, it became quite obvious that my initial ranger/monk super-casual dabbling main was going to have a hard time struggling through much of Eye of the North (to say nothing of hard mode attempts at the main chapter stories.)

The class I settled on for my new main – which was going to have to go through ALL the chapters AGAIN, before progress with the Hall of Monuments could be attempted – was the much talked-about imbagon.

Well, okay, paragon, but I was planning on dragging a bunch of stupid NPC heroes through a lengthy gauntlet of HoM tasks and between the choice of tanking for them on a warrior or some such and party wiping if things went wrong, or making the whole damn party tanks instead by basically rolling one’s face on the number keys… that was a pretty big argument in favor of a simple, spammy, idiot-proof playstyle.

Problem is, I really -hated- the characteristic silhouette of the Paragon.

The whole guardian angel thing was already fairly sappy, there was this entire love affair with the color white, and all Paragon armor basically looked like a cross between a kilt and a toga.

Picture from the Guild Wars wiki.
Picture from the Guild Wars wiki.

Not kidding you, go look at the paragon armor gallery if you want.

Yeah, some of it has armor plating, and some of it has spikes, but by and large, you were going to be looking like you were there to run a Greek marathon or something.

The Paragon weapon being a spear didn’t exactly help.

Now you looked like a javelin-thrower at the ancient Olympics.

Picking up the Rainment of the Lich for 10 bucks in Guild Wars 1 was the best not-quite-microtransaction I ever spent.


A paragon that isn’t white! Shock! Horror!

As for that particular shade of dye, I’m not quite sure how I arrived at it either.

I knew I wanted to be a unique color, not just a simple blue or red dye or whatever from a dye vendor, nor a simple compound color mix of two primary dyes.

There was some pink dye lying around from one of those Pink Day in LA celebrations… I grabbed some other dye out of my stash to mix with it randomly until an interesting contrast was obtained.

The rest is history. I went through many many HoM points looking like a vaguely demonic phantom and enjoyed it a lot more than I would’ve looking at paragon armor.

Knowing a Rainment of the Lich was coming in GW2 was one of those no-brainer must buys.

During the slow time after the sales, I’d already been converting gold into gems until I hit 700 in preparation for it.



Like all outfits, it has 4 channels of dye to play around with.


I know what I’m wearing for Guild Wars Halloween.

Ok, Had It With Twitter, Again

I am recently reminded why I never bothered with Twitter or other social media avenues for a very long time.

For Bragtoberfest, I decided to pay a bit more attention to my essentially placeholder account, since some planning and meetups and call out notifications were taking place on Twitter.

Besides a sudden (and rather scary) following of people who just upped and followed me, because that’s what you do in Twitter, I guess, like blogs, except I don’t have to know who’s paying attention to what I say in blogs, it’s just there for anyone who wants to stay and read…

(Assuming they have the patience to get through all that verbiage, which I think neatly whittles out the people I want to associate with from the ones I don’t.)

…which leads to a dilemma of “Do I follow this person back in return?”

It’s not that I don’t like any of you, even if I decided not to follow you or otherwise, but it’s more about how much spam and reading overload am I inflicting on myself?

The answer, as it turns out, is too damn much.

It’s too much of a “push” technology for me.

I may like you, but I really don’t want to hear about everything else you might be reading or doing or deciding that I might be interested in such-and-such topic as well.

I have my own reading list. It’s called Feedly. It caters to my own very customised set of tastes. You probably don’t want to hear about every last RSS feed I have on it, you’re probably just here for the games and MMOs topics.

I’m not going to be so crass as to suddenly stop following a whole spate of people in the hope of blissful silence once more, but I’ve decided the best way is to simply stop paying attention to and checking my Twitter account.

(I’ll make a small exception during the time period of the Bragtoberfest TF2 meetup and other such planned events, but I’m discovering that Twittering daily or more times than that is like asking to be placed on a spam list. Self-inflicted owwie.)

Hermits gotta be hermits. Noise is not conducive to hermitting.

But to be polite, in case someone is trying to contact me and wonders why I’m not responding, it’s cos I’ve stopped checking.

Feel free to poke me here on this blog or over other avenues to “hey, go check it for some purpose or other” and I’ll gladly do so, but I can’t do this “Hi, I’m here to see what spam my friends (or celebrities) have decided to send me this day/hour/second” thing anymore.