First weeks at work are generally a bit chaotic, new accounts, new processes, new people. This combined with a few other complexities (We had a Virgin Engineer around to fix the fact that every so often my ping times hit 20 seconds or so, a side effect of a fix of an issue a few months ago, when some gas engineers took a back-hoe to the fibreoptics) made the week slightly less relaxing than ideal.
Going to a new place is often a point of comparison, and it’s possibly worth writing up some of the practices and theories of operation of doing AWS stuff at enterprise-grade that I didn’t have the mental energy to get permission to write about before I left. All theory, anyway, since I can’t refer it back…
This week we won a RL battle of getting all the people lined up to play the third session (And first with everybody there) of Doug’s Trail of Cthulhu game, the Charybdis Protocol. I’ve got an IC writeup of the second session (my first. Scheduling is hard), and I’m working through the writeup of the second (Slightly harder. I’m attempting to walk the line between “useful session notes” and “one-sided account” in a session where I kind of lit a jerry-can of explosives on fire and threw it at the rest of the character party) (In my defense, shit got weird). Those will appear on my IC Diary site – The Hero Diaries – assuming the rest of the PCs don’t mind, and I’ve got their character names right.
Video-Game-wise, I’ve mostly been playing Warcraft, as I’ve been attempting to get my Monk to the end of the levelling campaign. Right now I’ve hit one of my least favourite bit of WoW end-game mechanics, the “Do tiny repetitive missions that reward junk and reputation to get through the reputation gateway” bit. Happily, I’ve managed to get my gear up to the level where I can do pick-up Heroics, so I’m balancing that with knocking out low-level achievements (Explore these zones, Poke this NPC, Poke that interactive object) while watching Twitch channels.
Twitch is my current background noise. Annoyingly I can’t get my old username back – I had a Justin.TV account before they were Twitch – but I did just realise that I could do the same thing as I did for this, so my new Twitch channel is Twitch.TV/Aquarionics. My first experiments in streaming had some mic-quality problems, but it is something I intend to experiment more with.
This may be combined with the fact that SWTOR is picking up speed in my local community again, so might end up doing more of that, and the idea of live-streaming a character path appeals. We’ll see.
I’ve had no beer explode this week, which can only be a plus. Brain-gremlins are down, sociality is up. I never really realise how badly stressful environments screw up my headspace until I’m out of them.
The lack of Odyssey meetings and discussions is kicking in to my calendar, and I’m kind of itching to run something game-like. This, coupled with Torment coming out and a block of Cipher-system/Numenera setting content that I backed with Kickstarter years ago turning up all at once is making that look like a short-run Numenera campaign. Tempting.
However, existing projects exist. I tidied up a bit of The Book, and it’s looking a lot better than I thought when I gave up on it. I almost don’t feel the urge to ditch it all (again) and rebuild. What I probably need to do is go over the first few chapters, redraw the arcs, and get a second opinion on whether the style actually tells the story. And then: Pirates.
Okay, so we moved into this house a month ago, getting on for two, but up until this week most of the front room was still taken up by boxes. This weekend, I turned it into a pile of emptiness:
And then turned it into a sofa:
And then, eventually, the same with my new desk:
Coming to the end of my current contract, and not sure how I feel about it. I always knew I wasn’t going to be able to tie everything off with a neat ribbon, but I keep cutting things I want to finish just to be able to get *some* things done. No new place confirmed – current best hope was at the AWS conference all last week, which delayed the process a bit – so it might get a bit fraught.
Spent some of the weekend in Sims, attempting to arrange lives where my own is messy, but some of it in the new Battlefront Beta, which reminds me a lot of early Battlefield games. It’s a lot more mass combat, a lot less Call of Duty, and quite a bit more fun. I found I wasn’t hitting anything as a Stormtrooper, but that the rebels got overwhelmed a lot, so it’s pretty true to the universe.
Brewed some beer, got the stuff to lay down some mead later in the week (Looks like one of my demijohns didn’t survive the move, so I’ve ordered a new one). Between that and actually getting the sofa and desk up, it’s been a productive while.
I’ve been working on the Pirate game too, there’s an early beta up, but it doesn’t do very much yet.
That I now have to make a decision on whether weeks begin on Sunday or Monday for this is probably a bad sign. It’s Monday, anyway.
My current contract is coming to an end, and with the company on a different footing to the last year, my position of emergency relief may be coming to an end. I kind of have to assume it is, anyway, so I’m looking for more different things. I’ve got an interview on Wednesday for a full time contract, which will be something of a novelty after working 3 days/week for the current one. Part of their interview process was this intensive logic-based Aptitude Test, and if I’d seen it coming I maybe wouldn’t even have applied. It’s the kind of mental-gymnastics “Could you get into Mensa” test that I’ve traditionally done really badly at – which means I panic, which means I do worse. I got the Face to Face interview before they sent me the test, though, and they haven’t cancelled that yet. Doing it on Wednesday put me on edge, though, which made a sudden explosion of drama in one of my corners of the internet hit a bit hard, so Thursday was crap, and then Friday, by dint of an astounding series of coincidences that built up into a *huge* pile of shit, was worse.
So it’s been a weird week, and this week isn’t looking much quieter.
The drama’s based around my “big” larps, those run by Profound Decisions that I help crew for, and was based around how well PD deal with abuse reports. To clarify: My role at Odyssey occasionally means dealing with the first part of these, in that I’m usually the first person people end up speaking to, but I’m under strict instructions – which I almost always follow – to directly redirect such complaints to non-volunteer staff (Sometimes the player doesn’t want to, sometimes other things get in the way). Paragraphs deleted here. I’m not getting into it.
Part of it is that I’m going to be running events, I hope, in the future; and I can’t see a clear path where I would have done it better or even particularly differently. The numbers are low enough that statistics become inferable to specific cases too easily, and I fundamentally disagree with last-action policies. That is, if you know someone is attempting to deal with anger issues, and you poke them with a stick so you can then point at them and say “This was going to happen anyway”, my sympathy is significantly less than if you poke them with a blunt stick and they bit your head of on spec. I don’t even begin to know where the answers are on events that happen out of the game that affect people’s ability to feel safe in the same tent/camp/field/county; and the line between asking people quietly to fall in line and publicly being seen to make a stand isn’t clear cut either.
It’s a hard problem, it’s a disservice to everyone – organisers, crew and players alike – to pretend there are heavy black lines around all of the areas (Yes, some actions are clearly bad), and the initial explosion of righteous “They’re being stupid”, “They’re being oblivious” didn’t help. The more nuanced discussions later were a lot better, but that was after the initial damage.
I spent most of Saturday on PiracyInc, the long lost Pirates Game I’ve been working on for years. It’s currently an excuse to learn Node – I do a lot better at learning languages by building things in them – and rebuild the visual mechanics of the game as a Cookie-Clicker style percentage bar system, but backed onto something akin to an MMO engine. There’s almost certainly better ways to do almost everything I’m currently doing, but right now I have the basics working, and can now start putting meat onto the bones.
I’ve also been working on my personal data archiving project, Lifestream. Right now it’s drinking in data on a lot of things in my life, and storing them in a database. A lot of that’s reproduced as part of NicholasAvenell.com, but some of it is on two timeshifted accounts, Aquarions Of History, which reproduces my tumblr of four years ago in real time, and @timeshifted-aq, which does the same for my Twitter stream. The new updates for the Twitter side replace “@” with the unicode ? symbol, to avoid sending notifications to people for tweets 4 years ago. On the tumblr side, I’m using queueing to make the times slightly more accurate (Twitter doesn’t let you schedule tweets with the API, so they appear when the script runs, every 15 minutes)
My iPhone 6S arrived on Friday, and I’ve been experimenting with it over the weekend. Battery life is a lot better than my (2 year old, >800× recharged) 5S was, Using it to navigate to a new place was – as expected – a large drain, as was being in a low-signal house for a while. Staying in the same place with low signal but wifi calling appears to have only lost 10% over the day, though, so it’s looking a lot better.
I’m looking at porting my Trello-based voice-mail system – Vox-ex-machina – from its current mess of hand-coded PHP into a nicer Node-based system, but that may come after Pirates gets a bit more love.
Still playing AdVenture Capitalist. Can clearly give it up any time I want to.
Batman Arkham Knight
In an attempt to use my PS4 a bit more, I picked up Arkham Knight for it – also affected by the reports of the PC version being shoddy. I like the Arkham games a lot, they’re hands-down the best representation of the concept of Batman in video game form and the gadget-centric progression fits the model of the character really well. That said, Knight’s push bigger has lost focus somewhat. The explicit mission tracking is welcome, but the scope and repetition of some of the tasks aren’t doing so well. Primarily, the Batmobile is massively overused. I understand they want to fit all the things they wanted to do with it over the last couple of games, but the Batmobile as puzzle-solving device gets old quick, and the shooting-gallery of tanks is just frustrating. It would be better if there *wasn’t* a concept of clearing out the islands, because it makes the one-line notification of “oh, BTW, there’s another stack of tanks to beat” frustrating. AND THEY RESPAWN. One of the leading lights of the Arkham series’ vaulted combat system was that when you got into a fight, you could see there are twenty guys, and then you’d beat 20 guys, and you’d win. Here – and it’s not just in the batmobile sections, they do it in the hand-to-hand too – there’s a high chance of multiple waves, without telegraph, that means you can never tell how close to success you are. The number of special-combo-to-beat enemies appears to have gone up too, turning many fights into effectively quick-time events as the tutorial window pops up with “Press X-X-O-Meta-Bucky-Five to disarm quantum field generators” with the added bonus of having to abort halfway though as some other fucker throws a TV at you from off-screen.
So, while I’m enjoying Arkham a lot, it’s not without flaws. Most of the reasons why I’m enjoying it a lot are where they’ve improved the original concept, and most of the places where I’ve not is where they’ve stretched it.
They’re making me bored of the Batmobile, though, which is an achievement in itself.
Pillars of Eternity
With the new expansion released, I’m also retreading though Pillars of Eternity. I’d got though to Act 3 previously, but when I came back to it I had no idea where I was, so I’ve restarted as a Moon Godlike Chanter, going from the least original class/race combo in the series to something distinctly more interesting. The replay’s going fairly well, I’m remembering most of the major plot beats and getting slightly different results, but the game’s still got a problem with leading you into fights you can’t possibly win at your current state, which I’m hoping the expansion’s better at. Though since by the expansion the party will be at a significantly higher level, it may work out anyway.
A few years and five houses ago, I had an idea. It was to be an online game, browser based, where you would own and run a racing car company. There’d be research and development, and aliens, and stuff, and every Saturday night, you and the people in your league would be able to watch in real time as the races happened.
I started it in PHP, badly. I used it as a reason to learn Django a few months later, then converted it to Code Igniter when I was about to start at Doof and needed to learn it in a hurry. Then I changed it to be about Pirates instead of race cars, because I’m not actually very interested in race cars. Then I rewrote it in Plank, which was a PHP framework library I still think should exist. Then again in Rails because frameworks are hard and Ruby seemed useful, then finally in Django again because I actually like Django.
By the PHP version it had bits of the game defined, by the Ruby version it had ships and missions and such, and by the Django version there are actual bits of the universe to go and attack (though you can’t actually attack them yet).
Updates on how its going appear on its own weblog every so often, and between that, LARP, Soulbook and Languagelab, that’s what I’m doing with my time.
About five years ago, I was watching an F1 parade and I had a Grand Idea. I would build a game based on the idea of being an F1 manager, only with more interesting things, like alien technology. The USP would be that on a saturday the people in your league would race, and you would be able to make decisions on the fly as to your strategy and tactics. I did some diagrams and thoughts around this, build up a prototype, plugged some numbers in, rewrote it all in OO PHP, buried it in soft peat for a couple of years, realised I wasn’t interested enough in F1 to make a game about it, even with alien technology. It was called Racr, and it would have had a new name before release. The codename before Racr was “Escape” because it’s close to F1.
Three years ago, I was signing up to a webhost in order to take advantage of their “100GB Web Space!” promotion to solve my backup problem. My backup problem – at the time – being the reasonably traditional “I don’t have any backups”. Part of the package was a domain, which I needed to choose on the spot. By this method, I bought the domain PiracyInc.com, and my mind started to whirr a bit.
I took some of the files from Racr, filed the serial numbers off, plugged in some pirates and monkeys, and had a better idea. Piracy Inc. Now, mentioning projects on here has been a death knell for them for a while, but with any luck this will stop here. Having written a couple of abstract scripts and some ideas, I started coding it about three years ago in Django, because it was New and Cool. Unfortunatly, the webhost I was with for the domain didn’t support Django very well, and I spent most of my development time dealling with differences between my local environment and the live one, Cpanal funtimes, reasons why fcgi had broken today and, on top of this, learning a brand new envrironment which was rapidly drifting towards 1.0 and kept on rendering the foundations of what I was trying to learn obsolete. I could have stuck with a single version, but a) I was trying to learn how to do this, and learning the Wrong Way to do it was a waste of time, and b) I was trying to build For The Ages, and doing it in a way I *knew* I would have to rewrite quite soon was pointless too. A lot of this was because development tended to be in bursts of a few days every month or so, but in the end I spent more time fighting the development environment than coding things, and gave up.
At the end of January last year I sat down and Did Stuff. I wanted to write this thing, and what I know how to write is PHP web applications. I’ve used most of the PHP frameworks, and I’ve got major problems with most of them. Zend pulls things out of thin air too often, Code Igniter has a Mahoosive God Object problem (They do not, obviously, see it as such), and all the others tend to have a 4mb footprint before you can write “Hello World”, so I decided to do this freestyle, building an MVC framework as I went. Obviously, for a full professional project, I’d highly recommend using an existing framework and staying within it, because the flexibility and things you may lose by doing this are ofset by the fact that multiple people have to work on it and understand it. However, I also believe that it’s important to understand where the problems with writing a framework are, and the line between a design decision and a pile of crap. Actually trying to do it all yourself gives you a far better perspective of why you wouldn’t want to.
Within six hours of starting the new version, I had decided to split out the framework into a different project, which is called Plank (Because it’s what a game about Pirates is built on). It’s designed to be light, flexible, and include the ability to use almost any Zend Framework plugin. I suggest you don’t even think about using it, it’s not even close to stable or ready.
Anyway, so I’ve been working on that, and some of it has been fun and interesting. A couple of weeks ago I had a problem with suicidal ex-captains shooting themselves in the head, and yesterday I attempted to rebuild an economy from scratch.