The SAD Project – Day 3 – Goddamnit, Sarge

I have been in the mood to revisit sci-fi alien shooters.

I have two main games for this top-down shoot-all-the-aliens genre:

Alien Breed 1-3, of which I can never seem to get beyond the first game, not because it’s bad, but because it’s slower-paced and more story-oriented with seemingly a lot of ground to cover, so I never finish it before getting distracted by another game.

And Alien Swarm, which came out as a free game on Steam some time in 2010.  I -loved- that game in its heyday. It stressed an amazing amount of thinking person’s teamwork and strategy, between the different classes (officer, tech, heavy weapons guy, medic) and the friendly fire (please don’t) and the need to wait in locales for some machine to trigger (hoorah sentry guns) mixed with the need to be on the move or run out of ammo and be swarmed to death.

It was also pretty durned hard on its higher difficulties. I will never forget the spectacular Insane difficulty achievement run, which I somehow managed to PUG, with two Ukrainian guys who also really really wanted it, and a string of randoms as the last filler. We played the campaign mission multiple times over, at least a dozen, ever so increasingly refining our strategy more and more efficiently until final success. The three of us became a really well oiled team before the night was done.

It also took pretty much all the desire for teamwork out of me at that point, having hit the limit of what could be achieved (imo) in PUGs.

When Brutal difficulty came out (one step higher than Insane), I wussed right out – feeling ever so keenly that pang of wishing for three other friends in the same timezone, with the same level of skill in perfect lockstep with each other and desire to play the same games at the same time – and never went back to Alien Swarm.

To my surprise, checking it out today, I find out that a new updated Alien Swarm: Reactive Drop just launched this year in April 2017.

It has the same campaign and classes, with apparently added improvements.

Supposedly it supports up to 8 person multiplayer, though I haven’t tried that yet. (That sounds amazing, if hellishly chaotic with friendly fire *smirk*)

There’s a lot more campaigns than the basic Jacob’s Run that the first game came with.

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And doubly amazingly, it also supports singleplayer with bots, with the ability to both give bots basic instructions, manually fire team-based skills with buttons, and hotswap from character to character to take over, while a bot helps out with the consciousness of the character you just left.

Imagine that. However you want to, or like to play, it gives you the option and the control. With tons of difficulty levels.

Free game.

Why more people aren’t playing it, I dunno.

Of course, the bots could stand a bit of improvement here and there…

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I picked a random new campaign, selected some characters at random, and trundled through the map, mournfully realizing that I’ve forgotten entirely how to play this game and trying my best not to friendly fire the bots (who do not exactly make it easy with their erratic movements.)

We wind up at the climax of the mission. I’d picked up a chainsaw, and was gleefully taking up position on the stairs besides the Officer bot (Sarge), creating a lovely chokepoint with which to slaughter aliens.

Unfortunately, Sarge ran out of ammo, and decided the best thing he could do was wade into the fray and melee the aliens. Right in front of my chainsaw.

Which spinning constantly with my very held down mouse button.

I saw his hp plummet, not exactly sure if it was ME slicing him to bits, or the dozen aliens on him pummeling him back.

Reflexively, I let go, turning the chainsaw off, backing up in confusion, turning it back on, trying to surgeon slice aliens around but not into the absolute chaos…

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It didn’t quite work out.

Goddamnit, Sarge.

The SAD Project – Day 2 – Predator Pew Pew

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You probably guessed this one was coming.

I set up a bunch of buy orders for Tier 6 materials and the remaining orrian truffles last night.

When I next logged back in, everything was ready for the grand assemblage. Aka, clicking and dragging lots of materials out of hoarded storage, visiting some NPCs to buy one item or another with one currency or another, mystic forging some things and crafting some others with the correct alt that had 500 leatherworking or 500 huntsman.

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That’s one shiny item icon.

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I took it out for a spin.

Immediately, I was like, “Why has this NEVER come to my attention before?” “Why hasn’t anyone blown whistles and banged drums and made a immense furor to this world about this sweet sweet gun?”

You know what’s most striking about it?

Its SOUND.

(Disclaimer: Not my video. Pretty much the only one on Youtube that lets the rifle speak for itself without loads of commentary. And it’s amazing how many are dated from 2013-2015, with very few Predator videos after.)

It has a reverberating laser pew pew sound that at first seems a bit at odds with the looks of the sniper rifle, but sounds immensely epic in scope and befitting that of an item with legendary status.

The second awesome thing is the fiery projectile that comes out of the rifle. Besides looking awesome, it also lights mobs you shoot on fire, and they die with the special flaming death animation that the fiery dragon sword skin also produces.

In a way, it’s good that I didn’t realize this until -after- I made the legendary.

Because I’m not sure I would have been able to wait as long as I did, and would have spent a lot more money/effort chasing it.

All’s well that ends well. Everything got prioritized nicely, I’m now the happy owner of Rodgort, Kraitkin, a set of legendary heavy armor, and the Predator, and I feel like the tension of the last year or so with immensely long term goals hanging over my head has wound its way to a close.

I feel like I can close the book at the end of this GW2 chapter, so to speak, and just dabble or putter around with much shorter term goals that were being put off (e.g. various Living Story chievos, try to get into fractals -again-) and/or wander off to other games.

Sometime in the future, I intend to idly creep my way towards stuff like Astralaria, Chuka and Champawat, a set of legendary light armor and so on, but that is a long way off, so no need for any concrete plans as yet.

Plans are for the end stages, to kickstart myself into actually doing things (like put W, X, Y  and Z into the mystic forge and click buttons, which I’d otherwise put off).

For now, I’m happy to have no more long term plans or ambitions.

The SAD Project – Day 1 – GW2 World Exploration

To whatever readers I have left:

After this long fallow period of “I feel like I have nothing to say”, this is your forewarning that the next 35 days on this blog will be (hopefully) spammy, to the point of being annoying and necessitating your own version of filtering me out.

Today marks the start of something experimental on this blog, a switch up in format for a month or so, before we re-evaluate the state of things.

Bottom line is, I miss blogging and want to get back into the habit of posting.

As anyone who has tried blogging knows, this is HARD when you’ve fallen out of the habit, and doubly hard when you’re feeling blocked and uninspired.

To lower the barrier of entry, my demented brain has concocted The SAD Project – or rather, The Screenshot-A-Day Project.

(I am enjoying the deliberate irony of the abbreviation though, as I’m hoping for this intentionally “sad pathetic” daily effort to build up steam in my boiler once more.)

Let me set expectations straight – this is going to be an experimental “low effort threshold” format from May 29 to Jul 2.

Not every screenshot is going to be a gorgeous gratuitous landscape or carefully posed action shot. (Unless I feel like it.) Most are probably going to be full UI monstrosities from whatever game I happen to be playing that day.

There may or may not be captions to go along with the screenshot. (Given my tendency to verbosity, a “minimal captions” intention may wind up turning into a paragraph regardless.)

All post headings are likely to wind up titled with a lazy variant of The SAD Project – Day #. (Because trying to be too creative with a blog post title is a good way for me to not even start.)

I just miss the sensation of being able to track what game I’m currently playing over the passage of time.

I figure, a screenshot and short description will do that job just fine.

Second bird killed with one stone, I get back in the habit of clicking “New Post” on the blog.

Who knows, maybe we’ll get a bonus oratory or two along the way, once the muse gets re-inspired. It’ll be a journey of discovery. Who’s with me?


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I am winding up on my second world completion with my favorite regions in Guild Wars 2, the autumnal Ascalonian plains.

World completion is a massive pain. Going from point to point filling in the landmark dots is a fairly boring too-Achiever-for-me-most-of-the-time grind, when all the Explorer in me wants to do is break free from its confines, race to the next horizon, hit a few harvesting nodes along the way, get diverted by a dynamic event and zig zag like a drunken worm across the map, while the “map completed percentage” remains stubbornly still and unmoving.

If you want a Gift of Exploration though, world completion is what you have to do.

And after putting it off for two years (in favor of first hoarding materials for a Legendary Armor set), I really -really- want my Predator legendary rifle.

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I am supremely amused by this Hero Point challenge. This charr asks me a set of multiple choice questions about Almorra Soulkeeper.

I am gung-ho with all things charr, and I select the “let me skip all the buildup, OF COURSE I know all about General Soulkeeper, ask me your dang questions” second option without even quite realizing what I am in for.

Three questions in, I am starting to think I am getting in way over my head… “What -rank- was Almorra Soulkeeper when the incident happened? What exactly happened to her warband? What were they actually supposed to be doing when it happened?”

Uhhhh, I haven’t done this hero point in… oh… over three years?

I put in my best guess answers anyway, and ask the charr NPC how I did.

BLAM, my charr gives a victory fist pump and gets the hero point. First try. Guess I still know my legion lore after all.

Modded Minecraft – SPPAAACCE!

Yeah, it’s been three weeks.

It’s taken me that long to blast off.

I saw over at MassivelyOP that Syp wrote a little article about Wynncraft, a free MMO made from Minecraft and a lot of modded love. I vaguely entertained the thought of checking it out… a thought that lasted until 25 seconds into the trailer, and the cheerful advertised feature of NEW ITEMS with walls of multicolored text, NEW DUNGEONS and NEW QUESTS with NEW REWARDS.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure this appeals to quite a few people, primarily the ones playing most MMOs, so it’s probably the right message for the right audience…

…but it really kinda hit me that I’m no longer in that audience.

Uhh, no more rainbow text incrementing numbers on items that get better and better please. New dungeons mean nothing, nada, to me. -More- quests?! To fetch one item or another or kill mob XYZ? For cosmetic rewards?

And to do this with a flock of too many players, all going at speeds and a pace faster than I likely can manage? Nah.

It’s great that some people managed to mod Minecraft towards how some players like their games, MMO-style, but modded Minecraft to me is always going to be a personal playroom where I can progress at my own pace, and not feel embarrassed by the far more ambitious builds of other players.

It’s where I can ignore the stated goals of the modpack, to amuse myself for a night or two, ad-libbing a modest chicken farm.

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Without having to worrying about crashing a server or impacting someone else’s gameplay performance.

Chickens lay eggs. A vacuum chest from Ender IO sucks up the eggs.

An item conduit, also from Ender IO, passes the eggs in the chest along to a vanilla Minecraft dispenser.

Rather than set up a complicated, bulky and messy redstone circuit vanilla-style (which I barely understand anyway), a Redstone Clock from Extra Utilities does exactly what I want it to do and no more – emit a one tick redstone pulse every second.

This triggers the dispenser long enough for it to chuck out an egg.

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Thrown eggs either crack and vanish, or hatch into a baby chicken.

Voila, ever-increasing numbers of chickens.

Every so often, I wander over, notice that the entity count in the area has risen up to the 100s, and manually flick a lever, that turns on the Minefactory Grinder hidden in the hole in the dirt at the back, powered by a simple Stirling Generator from Ender IO.

The grinder culls all the adult chickens, leaving only the babies, and stores feathers and chicken meat in a chest, while pumping out the essence (liquid XP, essentially) into a portable tank.

Huzzah.

The extra essence is handy for powering an autospawner/grinder I finally got off my arse to build.

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I remain absolutely tickled by the ghast, squished into the little cube space.

The cobblestone monstrosity on top is my very lame attempt at building up some free essence by provided a dark space for mobs to spawn. It doesn’t work as well as I’d like.

For one thing, it’s very small, mostly because I -hate- building this type of structure.

For another, I was experimenting with conveyor belts instead of vanilla water to push mobs, and it doesn’t seem to work as well. The occasional mob falls, but not in terribly high quantity.

Then there’s all the land area around me, which also provides ample space for mobs to spawn on the ground, instead of the defined cobblestone area.

I actually had a creeper accident once from a mob that snuck up behind me, and I had to dig a small moat/wall to fend off future explosions.

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RIP plans. Effing creepers.

The actual structure of the autospawner I kinda like, though it’s very cheap and flimsy. At the time, I didn’t have the materials for more blast-resistant materials or glass, so I made do with what was available. ie. Cobblestone.

A 9×9 internal cube of air, framed by walls, and a Minefactory Reloaded Auto Spawner in the middle. You set it to spawn specific mobs, by placing a Safari Net of the mob in question inside, feed the machine Redstone Flux power and Essence, and badabing, mobs appear.

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A Grinder at the front chops them down, one by one, storing their drops in a chest, and pipes/conduits pump the essence into a holding tank, which feeds back into the Auto Spawner.

It does cost more essence to spawn mobs than is produced by the grinder grinding them, so that’s where the spare chicken essence comes in handy.

At the moment, changeover of mobs is handled manually, by me chopping a two block high hole in the glass after the mobs have ceased to spawn and running inside to change safari nets.

(It does occur to me now that I could easily set up an item conduit chain triggered by a redstone lever to pull out the existing safari net and push another safari net in… I guess that’s a project for another time.)

This is what I find fun in modded Minecraft. I set up some very simple machines, with lots of manual input gaps in between, and then slowly improve them over time, perhaps finally achieving full automation one day.

It’s very modest “programming,” but I like that I have full control over the various iterations. It’s -my- machine. If I played in a server with other people, there would be other people’s machines (which I might be able to use, but not set up according to my brain’s logic) and that would push the pace to a group progression pace, rather than solely mine.

Here’s the other thing I LOVE playing around with:

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Buildcraft Quarries.

These things apparently can play havoc in multiplayer servers, causing lag from chunkloading or flowing water (allegedly) but in singleplayer, it’s mine, ALL MINE, to dig gigantic rectangular open pit holes in the ground.

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I just love watching them go.

They set up a rectangular frame around the area you specify with landmarks, chunk load everything for you, and then the quarry head moves systematically back and forth like a dot-matrix or 3d printer, except it digs out cube by cube EVERYTHING.

Screw branch mining. Forget about manually chopping out stairwells and teeny tiny tunnels.

Just RIP IT ALL OUT OF THE EARTH, cobblestone, dirt, ores and more.

It’s a hoarder’s dream.

Again, I started modestly, powering the quarry in the overworld with an improved windmill, some solar power, and pulling out the excess dirt and cobblestone from the chest into some compacting drawers.

Then I added the tiny Big Reactor, and the quarry went WHOOSH with a sudden influx of 1000+RF/tick.

To avoid making too many gigantic holes where my base was, I graduated on from using the overworld and moved on over into Aroma1997’s Mining Dimension, a flat grassy dimension solely for the purposes of mining.

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The compacting drawers became Deep Storage Units, capable of holding 2,000,000,000 of one type of item. (Next project: add more DSUs for gravel, limestone, andesite, diorite, the works.)

Several gazillion distractions later, I did eventually start in on the Space Program.

It was very different from how I normally play modded Minecraft.

Instead of just winging it and building simple stuff and then iterating on it as the whim takes me, I found that I had to start planning a lot.

Y’see, the problem was, once you go into space and land on the Moon, the issue becomes the title of Klei Entertainment’s new game. Instead of “Don’t Starve,” it becomes “Oxygen Not Included.”

Well. Crap. Spending all that effort to build a rocket, refine enough fuel to blast me into space and to the moon would SUCK if I promptly suffocated to death 30 seconds later in low gravity.

So I needed to learn about the machines the Galacticraft mod provided to solve the Oxygen problem. Everything from portable oxygen gear, to Oxygen Collectors that collect oxygen from leaves, to Oxygen Sealers that would only work if inside a sealed room, had to be researched and then built painstakingly.

Oxygen-providing machines need power to function. So now I needed to think of ways to create sustainable power while on the Moon.

Solar power was one avenue I went up explorimg for a while, scaling up to some four Advanced Solar Generators from Mekanism feeding the maximum capacity Capacitor block that held 25mil RF.

Then between one wiki reading and the next, I learned that on the Moon, day for like half of the moon phase, and then it becomes night for the OTHER half. For a real world hour or so.

Uhhh… Visions of the moon base failing and running out of power and oxygen just as the world got dark and evolved creepers and zombies started spawning across the land flashed in front of my eyes.

Multiple redundancies sounded like a good idea. Culinary generators? From wheat? I’d have to grow them. Generators fueled by charcoal? From trees? That would be grown? Hmm… I needed something cheap, compact, and sustainable.

The first moon base would be really small, so as not to tax the Oxygen Sealer, and consume too much oxygen…

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A couple days of Google research later led me to this beauty.

Ender IO’s Stirling Generators are one of the cheapest to build starting generators, but upgrade fairly respectably when kitted out with an Octadic Capacitor upgrade. They can burn solid fuel like vanilla furnaces, coal, charcoal, and -lava buckets-, while not consuming the iron bucket itself.

Minefactory Reloaded has a Lava Fabricator machine. A bucket of lava in a Stirling Generator produces more than enough RF for the fabricator to make a bucket of lava. Ding ding ding!

An Ender IO Fluid Tank is capable of auto-filling buckets of lava, if an empty bucket is piped into it.

Some item conduit tweaks later, the iron bucket automatically goes into the Stirling Generator when full of lava, and gets spat back into the Fluid Tank when empty, whereupon it fills up with lava again, and pops right back into the Stirling Generator, in a loop that produces excess power once the whole system fills up with lava.

I built lots of prototype machinery in the overworld to test. There was a grand checklist of items – Power, Oxygen, Food, Wood, Base Materials, etc – I’d have to bring to the Moon, because the moon wouldn’t have any of this stuff.

I was getting more paranoid than NASA.

I even backed up my save (hoorah singleplayer) before I started blasting off, just in case.

It was a good thing too, because a stray zombie jumped me 5 seconds into the countdown, and managed to kill me, JUST as the rocket blasted off (without me) into space.

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Lesson learned: Do not blast off at night, without any fences to keep mobs at bay.

Paranoia rewarded. One backup save retrieval later, I slept in a bed to switch it to daylight before blasting off.

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The Space Astronomy modpack is pretty nuts. First time seeing this menu, ever. Lots of planets to visit, requiring higher and higher tiers of spaceships. You can make a space station too, orbiting the overworld…

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…but it’s the Moon landing we’re headed for, this first go around.

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My first ever moon base, a very modest rectangular room made up of stone bricks and concrete blocks. (Brought the bricks just in case the concrete wasn’t recognized as a solid block by the Oxygen Sealer.)

The “airlock” is basically two solid blocks of moon dirt on the left side, leading into a shallow tunnel, sealed with another two solid bricks as the outer door.

There are actual proper air lock blocks and controllers in Galacticraft, but they require meteorite iron, which can only be found on the moon.

There’s oxygen in the room, as indicated by the torches staying alit.

It was rather unnerving the first time around, because I realized through actual firsthand experience, that the vanilla Minecraft torches would not stay lit in an oxygen-free environment. (Well, duh, in retrospect.)

There was a lot of building in the dark and stumbling around placing initial blocks, while praying no mobs snuck up.

Fortunately, the redundancy in planning worked, and the lava-fed stirling generators produced enough power to keep all the oxygen machines topped up for good, and then some.

There was a small amount of panic at the discovery that the Oxygen Collectors were not collecting as much oxygen as tested in the Overworld, because there isn’t oxygen in the atmosphere to collect.

My elite gas tank that I prefilled with 512 buckets of oxygen was diminishing to the 400s as I worked.

Apparently, I needed a lot more plant material around, so I grew lots of wheat and a few oak trees to shear more leaves (yay, I remembered to bring shears) to line the space near the Oxygen Collectors.

Some more tweaks and repositioning of input and output to the gas tank and pressurized tubes later, I was finally getting positive inflow of oxygen to send the gas tank numbers rising, instead of falling.

Yay!

All in all, things went well, all the essentials were stabilized, even without needing me to set up the solar power generators. Likely those will have to go on the outside, when I construct the rocket launch pad to get back to the overworld.

The major thing I missed in my plan though, was LIGHT.

I had no clue the torches would extinguish without oxygen. This makes mining for moon ores nigh impossible right now. I can only walk the moon’s surface during the day, looking for fallen meteors for meteoric iron.

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No finding the moon dungeon for me.

Soon, it’ll be time to build the rocket launch setup back (yes, I remembered to bring fuel, and a fuel loader… I think) and I will need to think on the light problem.

Glowstone torches work, apparently, but glowstone is really annoying to come by. Grrrr.

On the bright side, at least I’m not dead before the moon base got set up and stabilized into sustainability.