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