Summer’s Over

Alive and well, thank you.  As in the last couple posts, we bought a cottage on a lake/river and have spent the majority of the summer on its shores.  Canadiana.

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Spent the summer with a small boat to fish, as fishing is extremely fun for me (so much so, that an MMO has to have fishing for me to be hooked).  Sadly, there were issues with the motor and my last week of vacation wasn’t all that much fun being land-bound.  So we bought a new (used) boat.  A Legend Excalibur 18, with a 115ETEC motor.  We pick it up on Friday, but here’s a pick of the current model.  It’s a good compromise for me wanting to fish, and my wife wanting to cruise/pull things.

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Health

Cottage country and exercise don’t usually go hand-in-hand.  Still, I made due with a pair of adjustable free weights (up to 50lbs each) as much as a I could.  When I was home, I continued to use the barbell and StrongLifts 5×5 program.  Squats are 240, Bench is 175, Rows are 160, Press is 130, Deadlifts are 260.  Accessories are good too, with a 25lbs chinup/dip going, 250lbs shrug and 95lbs curl.  I still have progress on a few of the movements, but not that much before having to swap programs.  Maybe another 2 months worth, as it’s about 90 minutes of work due to the rests between sets.

Also, I really like beer.  Like is probably not the correct word.  I had too much over the summer (I always do) and am a few lbs heavier now than in June.  I can get rid of that in the next couple months anyhow, and be close to ideal weight for the holidays.

Gaming

The cottage doesn’t have high-speed internet, so what gaming I had was board-based, or an emulation on my tablet.  In the few spots I did have at home, I gave the Batman Arkham Knight a try.  It’s better than the previous ones, certainly, but the batmobile/tank is off-putting.  I gave up on the Division pretty quickly, as the end game is non-existent.  It’s worse than when D3 originally launched and Inferno mode required perfect stats.  At least there you could game the AH and it was a PvE game.  Division requires the same perfect stats but you need to be in a PvP zone to get them.  Surround by demi-gods with nothing to do other than ruin your farm because they already have the gear.  Too bad, because the game from 1-30 was great.

I have recently installed another game though.

WoW and Legion

I have no shame in admitting I reinstalled WoW.  You can buy time with gold, and I had more than enough gold to last a year+.  I also purchased Legion, because I have spare money to burn (not really with a cottage/boat).  Where WoD was a baby-bathwater exercise after Pandaria, Legion is taking a different approach, with multiple game paths and simplified builds.  My monk in WoD (remember, they came out in Pandaria) had 3 bars of skills – now he has 5 buttons.  My Hunter is down to 4 skills.  It makes for a clean interface.  There are interactions (procs) between skills, so yeah, you could mash 4 buttons, or learn to read the patterns and do more.  The whole easy to learn/difficult to master portion I guess.

Demon Hunters are ok.  I’ve mained a Rogue and a Monk, so  I have certain expectations.  DH don’t feel as smooth as either of them, more of the clunkyness of a DK waiting for rune procs way back when.  They feel more powerful mind you.  Time will tell.

The invasions going on now until launch are a neat way to level alts.  Heirlooms have been streamlined into a separate interface and I already had the level 90 variants.  An extra 8k gold to get them to work until level 100 (cloth ones) and send the alts to invasions.  The extra 45% is noticeable.  Clearing one invasion gives about 75% of a level (from 90 beyond), and there are 6 that spawn every 2 hours.  Each takes about 30 minutes or so to clear.  And each gives 2 loot boxes that provide level appropriate gear.  My hunter went from 90-100 in 3 days and has ilvl700 gear.  That’s the gear required to to heroic raiding.

Long story short, it’s fun enough for now and doesn’t have any monthly costs for the foreseeable future.

 

Back to the ARPG

I like Dark Souls, I just don’t have the fortitude to learn how to play it.  Quite simply, my days are extraordinarily draining of late.  After work (where I’m doing 5 jobs for another 2 weeks), eating, playing and putting the kids to bed, then exercise, I have very little brain juice left.  Dark Souls requires a lot from the player and I just do not have that to give right now.  Maybe in a month or so.

Hack n Slash

That said, I’ve gone back to some ARPG staples.  D3 is off the list since I played the crap out of season 4, and season 5 isn’t really a season.  Path of Exile is on the list to go back to, but I wanted to give Grim Dawn another shot.  One of those few “kickstarter-like” projects that actually released something of quality.  I picked it up before the full launch and there have been some QoL/balance tweaks since.  I like the build diversity without the complexity of PoE.  Plus the game isn’t as dark, so I can see what the heck is going on.

Tap Tap FarAway Kingdom

Version 2 was released.  I wrote some more about it.  The long tail was (getting to floor 3000) was put in the realm of achievable with the most recent patch.  Before the path, it was about a day’s worth of effort to get to 2700.  Now I can get it done in an hour.  I find the game strikes the right balance between strategy, gameplay, passive play and reward.  Plus it’s the only tapping game that doesn’t make my battery drain within an hour.

Exermecise

Still running Strong Lifts, though I’ve modified it slightly to include some ICF accessories.  My problem with SL is that it is too short and lacks isolation.  I fully realize that as a novice lifter, compounds are required for foundation work, but there are specific items I need to have in the program.  ICF is too long, somewhere between 60 and 120 minutes, depending on how you get your supersets integrated.  I do not have anywhere close to that amount of time – that program is for people who are dedicated and working out is their primary hobby.

So a small modification with a couple accessories is what I’m doing now.  The linear progress is a good feeling and I’ve reached the point where there’s some decent effort involved in the movements.  I had opted to take a low starting weight in order to focus on form for the first few weeks.  That had be plateau at a given weight.  Moving into the heavier stuff has caused the numbers on the scale to drop consistently.  I’m just a few shy of the target weight, so a few more weeks of cutting before maintenance begins.

It is surreal the effect of working out has on my stress levels.  All the above may be gobbledygook to some, but the net effect is that pushing and pulling heavy things unleashes a torrent of hormones that drastically improve my mood.  I have missed this tremendously.

Dark Souls

Outside of gaming, my wrist still hurts and I’m off for a referral.  Physio hasn’t done much, unfortunately, though the last round found a good taping job that relieves the pain temporarily.  Basically, any pressure against the palm with the wrist at a non-neutral angle, causes spikes of pain.  Sleeping was uncomfortable, cutting veggies too.  Exercise is an odd one, as nearly all exercises should be done in a neutral grip, if done correctly. Upright rows, and twist grips (like a clean and jerk) simply can’t be done, nor can pushups.  But I can do a squat, deadlift, press, bench, pull up, chin up, bar curls and dozens more.  I guess it’s one way to make sure my form is perfect. Oh, and there’s something to be said about linear gains in exercise.  Supremely motivating.

Inside of gaming, I’ve put the Division on hold for a bit.  I’ve tried a bit of the Dark Zone and it’s like a dumbed down version of the 1-30 content.  It feels like a meat grinder, with the only goal being to collect more numbers, to grind more meat.  I realize that’s the entire point of “end-game” content, it’s just that there’s no strategy to it.  Point and shoot and that’s it.  The hard mode missions are neat though.  It’s just that I recently played all of them, and I can do with a break.

That brings me to Dark Souls.

The Heck Man?

My experience with DS starts with the NES.  Seriously.  I played Battletoads, TMNT, Ninja Gaiden, Punch Out, Ghouls and Goblins, Contra, and Castlevania.  I have played against the RNG of gaming, and I have played within the crazyness of pathing of the AI.  I was raised in the fires of a Game Over screen.  Clearing the Ninja Gaiden remake is the only recent high bar I can compare to… and that was nearly 10 years ago.

DS follows that thought process and applies a bit of an open-game mindset.  I like the concept of respawning enemies when you save.  I like that enemies have patterns that you can learn to exploit.  I like the complexity of the stats, and the interactions between items.  The feeling of being the little guy against a mosh pit of enemies.  I like that when you die, you can get the lost souls back, and that any gear you did acquire stays with you.

My only gripe is in the controls.  It took me an hour to break the instinct of pressing X to attack.  So much so that I had to swap out what X did and put in an item I couldn’t use to avoid drinking all my potions.  Rolling to avoid damage is inconsistent, along with the collision detection.  A roll that works the first time, you may completely miss the 2nd time.  Attacking is similar, where the lock-on doesn’t always register due to movement.  Enemies hit you with an unknown hit box, making it really hard to figure out if you actually evaded correctly, or if they missed you my an imaginary pixel.  Or that you can’t interrupt an attack (at least I haven’t figure out how to on anything other than a grunt).

I tried the first boss about a dozen times.  I was trying to figure out his attack patterns, and found that rolling in was more effective then out, for most attacks anyways.  When he transforms into that purple snake thing, the camera angle is so poor that I have no idea what he’s doing unless I’m so far out of range that I can’t attack.  It just turned into “dodge in, attack 3x, dodge out, circle strafe”.  And that strategy has worked wonders on anything since then that takes more than 5 hits to kill.

I clearly still have a learning curve to get through, in particular in learning how to be more aggressive when I get the patterns down.  The controls are slower and less responsive than I’d like, so that’s a big part of it.  I think it may have more to do with unlearning 30 years of gaming.

Still, it’s a fun game.  One where you feel yourself progressing, and there’s minimal AI cheating (mimics aside, those bums).  It’s not often I play a game where I learn something brand new, and I’m quite glad this one offers it.

Forbidden Desert

A the Geek Market a few weeks ago, I picked up Forbidden Desert.  I played once with my 5 year old that week, then again last night with the 3 & 5 year olds.  They were not the same experience.

The game is based on Forbidden Island and follows a similar structure.  There are 24 cards set up in a grid, with the center piece missing, acting as a sand storm.  The goal of the game is to find 4 missing pieces of a ship and reach the landing pad to escape.  To find a piece, you need to uncover 2 indicator cards and find their intersection, then go and get the piece.  Each turn allows you to take 4 actions, move or dig the sand, and most character can only move north/south or east/west, and 2 levels of sand means you can’t cross but have to dig through.  There are tunnels spread about that can speed play, and you do unearth various gizmos to help clear sand, protect from the sun or zoom around.  After the 4 turns, you flip over storm cards, and that’s where it gets rough.

The cards move the eye of the storm around the board, and based on that movement, more sand shows up.  There are a few cards that increase the storm force, thereby requiring you to pick up even more sand cards.  Finally, there’s the sun card, which drains your water (effectively hit points).  Too much sand and you die.  Not any water and you die.  RNG can be a pain here.

The first game was, or felt, like an even spread of storm cards.  It was manageable and fun.  We barely escaped mind you, but the idea that there was some level of control was key.  We needed to refresh our water supplies and working together made it happen.

The second game had horrible RNG.  Within the first 2 rounds, the storm had picked up 4 notches and I was down to my last hit point.  I tried to get my character to water, but the storm cards had put so much sand on the board it just wasn’t possible to move there.  My 5 year old had her turn and pulled out two more sun cards, which wiped 2 of us off the game.

I’m thinking back to Pandemic, which also has RNG, but thankfully places the bad cards in an “even” spread.  Back to back epidemics can (will) kill you in the mid game, so a decent spread is very good.

The next run through Forbidden Desert, I will be splitting up the storm pile and distributing the storm/sun cards evenly between the piles, my guess 4 piles should do.  Then I’ll shuffle each pile and stack them up.  While it’s certainly possible to have back to back poor pulls, it should be an extremely rare occurrence to pull up 3 in a row.  Random within limits, because really, who gives a crap about pure RNG except when it’s in your favor?

 

The Division at 30

I hit level 30 over the weekend and the game took an odd turn for me.

Each sub-zone has one group mission, and on the penultimate one I was teamed up with 2 folks who were level 30 and had a high gear score (or it appeared high).  Yes, this game has a gear score, easy to identify with other players.  They were both near 150, which is the average item level across all pieces.  I was having a tough slog through the zone, taking quite a few hits to take an enemy down.  15K per headshot, which I thought was pretty decent – at least in the solo play.  These 2 guys didn’t even both hiding, they just ran through the entire zone, a clip dropping an entire room.  My first thought was that they had hacked the game.

And then I hit level 30.  I crafted some level 89 gear and went to do the last mission.  In it, I got a new sniper (marksman) rifle and was now doing almost 60K per headshot.  My mine skill was clearing out any solo mission in a single hit.  In the space of 30 minutes, I had quadrupled in power.  The sad part is the difference in power between me at 29 and 30 was about the same as the difference between me at 30 and those 2 guys at 150+ gear score.

Now, I’m all used to power curves.  Diablo 3 has one of the worst I’ve ever seen.  Most MMOs have bad ones as well, though dying while leveling is a rare enough occurrence these days.  The Division just takes it to a level I’m not used to.  It feels like I’m using cheat codes.

But, this is only related to the “normal” level gameplay.  I haven’t done any Dark Zone content, nor any challenging/hard missions.  I’m fairly confident a level of challenge exists within that space.  Perhaps this is like SWTOR, where once you hit level cap, they provide you with a set of epic gear to take on the “now relevant” content.  It does make all the solo-content essentially irrelevant to complete (aside from credits I guess).

So now, I’m looking for some builds and better understanding of stats in the end game.  From what I can see so far, having scavenging up to 99% has a dramatic effect on drops, though getting it to 100% causes a bug to make it worthless.  Crit chance has no impact on head shots.  Weapon Damage has diminishing returns, Skill Power affects pretty much anything you do, and there’s a bear minimum level of hit points you need to survive a sniper shot.  In a game where defence means little (from what numbers I’ve seen), optimizing offence seems to be relegated to a very small set of stats.  Curious as to the long tail in this game.

I’ll give it another week or so, to see where things fall into place.  Afterwards I think I’ll give Dark Souls 3 a try.  We’re a month in, someone is bound to have a 50% off sale right?

Self-Motivation

Duke of O has an interesting comment that bears some expansion.  How to get self-motivated.

I think it’s fair to say that I’m an outlier when it comes to motivation.  My wife thinks it’s borderline OCD, though in fairness it has more to do with anxiety & stress management.  At work, I take spontaneous decisions multiple times per day.  Each one is based on the available facts, my memory, expert advice, and finally the analysis of the long-view.  Most people can understand everything but the long-view.

Sure, a decision today has an immediate impact, but what about a few weeks from now, or a few years?  How does it impact me, the people close to me, and the people outside my circle?  How does it impact other decisions?  These are all items that go through my head and are incredibly hard to shake.  I’ll give an example, home renos.

For a long while we wanted to knock down a wall and open up the kitchen.  Sounds simple enough.  After I looked at all the details it actually turned into a whole floor reno.  I needed to re-arrange the kitchen cabinets, get a new counter, open up another wall to run pipes & electricity, move some switches, re-enforce an adjoining wall, change the flooring in the kitchen and remainder of the floor to match, which also joined into a bathroom…it was never ending.  What seemed like a simple job turned into a 6 week reno.  None of it was surprising, as I had thought it all out, but it took time.

How does this link to self-motivation?  I think long term and I think in terms of return on investment.  I worked for about 4 months on a particular work project from my basement. I spent a few weeks at the cottage too, working at odd hours to get it done.  I knew that if I crammed as much work as possible into the right time space, I could get double that in free time later in the day.  I made sure that the environment was conducive to that as well, so I eliminated any distractions.  I basically set up the perfect environment for me to succeed, removing any excuses.

Same goes for exercise.  I just don’t have time to physically travel to and from the gym.  The closest one is about 5 minutes away.  Including the driving, changing, and shower, I lose at least 30 minutes of my day.  And that’s not counting the waiting for a machine/weight to free up.  What would take me 60-90 minutes in a gym, I can get done in 45 at home.  That’s massively motivating.  The equipment I have, and the setup I have, make it extremely easy to get going, listen to music or a movie, and get the workout done.   I’ve removed all excuses from the equation, with the exception of “I’m too tired”.

And that’s the hardest one because it’s often true.  So I use various applications to keep me honest.  My wife uses social groups.  Getting a notification on the phone/tablet that it’s time to workout is motivating.  Seeing the progress between workouts is even more motivating.

Self-motivation is like a chemical reaction.  You need the right conditions and the right ingredients to get it going.  And once it starts, it’s usually quite hard to stop.

New Gear

I’d been thinking about it for a few weeks now and when that happens, it usually follows with about 20 hours of homework for options.  It doesn’t matter what it is that I have my mind on, I am thorough.  This time it was replacing my home gym equipment.

Swapping from this

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It was far from useless, in fact I was using it every other day for quite a while.  It just limited my movements and isolated muscle groups.  Even though I was getting better at the exercises on the machine I felt I was losing in regular day to day activities.  Compound exercises are the way to go, and you need free-weights.  So I’m selling the above and swapping to the below.

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That’s a power rack and bench I got from Treadmill Express.  Buying fitness equipment in Canada is not the easiest…holy cow.  There are at least 10x the providers in the states and usually the shipping is included.  Anyhow, I bought on Sunday, it shipped out on Monday and was at my door Tuesday.  That’s impressive.

I spent about 2 hours Wednesday putting it all together.  That was a workout in itself.  Now I need to go and get an Olympic weight bar and some plates to complete the gear swap.  That’s also something that’s not the easiest to come by, since you know, shipping 300+ lbs isn’t cheap.  Thankfully there’s a store in town I can get a set for a good enough deal.  Then I can enjoy squats, lunges, benches and lifts galore.  And unless my math is wonky, all for under $1000.  That’s about 15 months of a gym membership.  Or half a gaming PC, hah!

That should set me up for this weekend and getting really into the stronglifts 5×5 program.  I’m much to rusty to lift anything more complicated.  It’ll be sore but it’ll be fun.