Back Into the Fire

Two weeks of vacation isn’t enough – I’ll just put it as plain as that. The first week was all renovations, the second was rain pretty much every day. It wasn’t office work, granted, and I was able to disconnect from email/chat for that time, but it wasn’t what I’d consider a break. When I did get back to the house, the back to school stuff was needed, our fridge needs to be replaced, and my Raider laptop has 4 faulty keys. First world problems much.

The Laptop Keyboard

I have a GE75 Raider, it’s a bit over a year old. The ESC, ~, Y and numpad 5 are not working for some reason. I checked the mechanical parts, everything is fine. The backlight is fine too. I figure I’ll order a new keyboard and replace it. But the GE75 is too new, so I’m rather looking for replacement parts for a GE73 (1yr earlier model). Most ship from China, but I did find one at a reasonable price nearby.

I’ve built my own PCs for years. I’ve repaired numerous laptops. Keyboard on laptops are the absolute worst thing to replace, since you need to take everything out. The GE75 has 2 hidden screws, or hidden in a way that you can’t really get to them without taking more parts first. I was really hoping not to have to take the fan off, and just the board, but everything is glued to something else. The form factor is so small, there are cables connected to both sides of the main board, and I always felt like I was breaking something. Finally get to the keyboard case and there’s a damn shield covering it. One that’s set with plastic rivets. It’s impossible for me to repair without breaking a pile more.

So now I need to find a shop that can do the work for me.

Stardew Valley

I use gaming as stress management. I picked up Stardew Valley for my tablet a while ago, never really got into it. Given the past few weeks, I took it for a spin.

It’s certainly calming. Managing energy levels to get through a day is a fun set of constraints. It’s impossible to lose, which is also good for stress. What it has a bit too much of is breadth to start. There are so, so many objectives that are possible, and nearly all of them are gated behind multiple days of work. They are optional, but they often unlock some other activity – like a greenhouse that grows plants year long.

The gameplay is such that you always get that “one more day” drive. Nearly every action can be automated in some manner, but that requires materials/money. Getting that also takes time and months of in-game effort. The systems are intertwined, and not easily explained, making wiki almost mandatory.

Not saying that’s a bad thing, just that sometimes I end up hitting a wall cause I can’t figure out how the next step completes. Say like a fish that only shows up when raining in the summer, at night, at a lake. How am I supposed to know that?

It is fun to discover new things. Realizing that almost everything has a value aside from money. It’s a drastic departure from most modern games, what with the grey/green/purple quality info. Once into the groove, things start working out.

I’m starting Spring in year 2 now. I understand enough of the mechanics now to close out the community Center this year and those extra unlocks. It’s fun setting up long term goals, then the short term ones as steps.

Plus it has fishing.

Impromptu Vacation

After going full bore and filling every weekend with something, I was finally able to negotiate some time off. 2 weeks worth of full break mode. A few hours after I had confirmed it, my wife sends me a picture of the cottage and it’s leaky roof. And some carpenter ants having fun under a large window set. Guess the vacation would be postponed.

The first weekend was some friends helping get the demo & framing done. The supporting joists were rotten, a separate set of windows was crooked, and an inside wall had suffered years of water damage. All of Saturday was fixing the exterior, straightening the wall, levelling the windows, insulating, and closing up with OSB/Tyvek. The large window repairs included cutting 8” of the floor. The ceiling over the dining area was full of years of mouse trappings. Holy moley. Sunday was setting new window trim for the siding. And then watching the roof repairs not work as expected and it leak inside the house.

Monday was more roof repairs and fixing the interior wall. I should mention it was a load bearing wall, and right on the load. Father-in-law is more than handy and it was a day and a half of work to get it sorted out. The good news is that even with the hose spraying the roof, the leaks are gone.

Tuesday was clean up work outside, shoring up the retaining wall in the crawl space, caulking and filling in holes.

Wednesday was about rebuilding the interior finish. Some white pine tongue & groove, over a cedar plank to cover the cut floor. The rad was going to cover the plank anyhow. With the large wood shortages around, we opted for some 1×5” pine trim. Looks pretty good.

Thursday was about finishing the ceiling in the dining area that had leaked. That was a very cathartic part of the project since its the room we tend to spend the most time in. The same large trim is on the ceiling, just as on the window trim. It’s a different look on the windows, since they are not the same size (off an 1 1/2”), but it still retains the cottage / wood look.

Friday was OFF, as was Saturday. Sunday was mostly off, but we needed to expand the size of the door on the shed by about 9”. A shed that’s 30+ years old, and far from level. Building on anything that’s not level is really hard, cause there’s no easy cuts, everything must be eyeballed. We opted to shore up some parts, shave some parts, and make it as level as possible.

Things that are left to do this week:

  • Put up the vinyl (should be here for next weekend)
  • Rebuild 2 access doors to the crawl space (4×4), including the framing)
  • Add some panels and caps to the extended shed door to close off the gaps
  • Install a 4×8 wood panel sheet on a rebuilt wall
  • Install quarter round in the living/dining room ceilings
  • Spread out the fill that’s in a few piles around to level the yard, which includes removing a good half ton of river rock (we have a homemade shaker)

And before end of season

  • Install some new rain gutters
  • Replace the roof
  • Install a vent in the crawl space

The end goal is that most people won’t see a large difference in the cottage, except some new colours. We will see doors that close level, windows that slide level, less water all over the place, and a shed door that is miles easier to get into / out of.

Oh, and get some fishing in too!

Tornado Alley

It may have made the news near you, but my city got hit with a couple tornadoes on Friday.  First time in 25 years.

 

It’s an oddly built city, with a sister city just across the river (in another province), a we’re in a valley.  This makes for interesting storm paths that hit the west end of the city, cross the river, hit that city, then come back to this side farther in the east.  I live on top of a hill, which is often spared the brunt of any large storm.  I saw the black clouds and a bit of heavy wind… but that’s it.

Luckily there were no fatalities, and just 6 critical injuries.  Power was lost to half the city for most of the weekend, with just over 5,000 left impacted on Monday.  The majority of the city is closed today to allow people to worry about their family and homes, rather than office work.  Except the french school board, but that’s a different topic.

No one on my team was directly impacted, but quite a few of their family members were.  That’s some good news.  My friends and family are mostly unaffected, except for a few with power issues.  That’s also some good news.

I work in IT.  We have multiple data centers in this city, as it’s the core of our operations.  A lot of those centers offer critical services both internally and to clients, so it was an all-hands on deck type of weekend.  Disaster recovery plans are the types of plans you never want to execute, but are glad that you have when you need them.  It’s impressive how thorough and passionate people can be during these types of events.   More than happy with what my team pulled through this weekend, and what the organization was able to do given the circumstances.

Now we start the period of rebuilding.   And to see what kind of help we can provide.

Blizzard Rumors

So first some light reading, all speculation from an inside source.

The gist being

  • Low faith from the senior execs in Heroes of the Storm
  • The next WoW expansion is near complete, with a boost to the art department
  • SC2 is done with no release date
  • Overwatch has no business model
  • Hearthstone is raking it in
  • D3 dev team has been assigned to another project, in the SC universe

Blizzard’s only response so far is related to D3, in that the team continues to support the game and there is no mystery project.

Heroes

This one is reasonable.  HotS is coming into a heavily saturated market, where there are 3 front runners – LoL, DOTA2 and SMITE.  There are dozens of other MOBA games as well.  And they all share the same thing that HotS doesn’t have: free to enter and feature complete.

$40 for a beta entry is high.  There’s no trial to see if you actually like the game, so I am guessing that Blizz has had significantly lower demand than expected.  WoW, HS and SC are all top of pile products.  They lead the industry and have more or less since they launched.  It would be naive to think that HotS could unseat the top 3 in a fell swoop. Prospects should be tempered.

WoW

While this is also reasonable, the timing seems off.  Blizzard takes ~8-10 months to polish a feature complete game.  Math-wise, that would be another release near the holidays.  My bet’s on a Burning Legion expansion, given the hints so far, though my guess there’s a fair amount of story to go.   Still, there are how many Warlords dead?  Blackhand is next and that’s before 6.1 so we’re well over the 50% mark before the first major patch.

Plus, Blizzard tends to make a very, very big deal about expansion announcements, and then proceed to wait over a year for release.  Would be quite a shift if this rumor were true.

Starcraft

The silence on this is quite odd.  The last part (zerg) was well received, and is quite popular.  It’s a game that doesn’t make money outside of expansions though, so an odd choice to not have some release/hype around the next one.  It’s not like we’re looking at a month to go, as the Blizz PR machine hasn’t even started and it typically runs for a few months.

Overwatch

No business model?  I would guess this to be false as business models aren’t a last minute decision, due to the design implications.  Expansions with characters or single character sales seems like a rather obvious decision.  I don’t even see a decision to be made.

Hearthstone

This being top of pile?  Yeah, I can see that.  It’s #4 in Twitch.  Only available on Tablets and not phones, so the actual mobile numbers are hard as hell to find.  It’s leagues beyond it’s closest competitor.

Diablo3

D3 today is a very solid game.  I think Marvel Heroes offers a similar experience.  You’d be spending more on the latter though, as it’s F2P and not B2P.  That would also mean that it’s making more money (at least more than 0).  D3 a year ago had an auction house and the RMAH was running at a decent enough pace.  Blizzard made a cut off that and they shut off the tap.  I’d be curious to see where the metrics are on that.

D3 can only make money on expansions.  Free content in between expansions doesn’t make money.  From a business perspective, Blizz isn’t really in the “more than 1 expansion” market.  It would make sense, based on historical evidence, that Blizz is simply in maintenance mode.

Conclusion

While there’s a lot in here that seems reasonable, it’s a period of the year of typical gaming studio silence.  There’s nothing off the wall, which makes for the worst kind of rumors.  If there’s any truth to it however, it would seem that we’re in for a pretty big flurry of Blizzard announcements before E3.