It’s Only Crazy If You Let It

These past few weeks have been a rollercoaster of activities.  Hockey was full steam, across two teams.  More family activities now that Spring is here.  And work.  It’s end of our fiscal, a new financial model is being deployed, new authorities being granted – mostly a lot of paperwork and meetings.

But this health stuff.  Jeebers.  A lot of people at work were not paying attention, and this seems to have caught more than a few unawares.  The job I have supports key pieces that let a ton of people work remotely.  Snowdays, strikes, things of that nature usually push us to capacity.  But they are generally pretty rare, and localized.

Right now in Canada, we have an entire province on lockdown, and quite a few big cities.  So nearbouts 90% of my userbase, and pretty much my entire team.  Where we’d see spikes to say 30,000 – now we’re looking more like 300,000.  Fine enough.  Most of the pieces were built to work on agnostic networks (anywhere, anyplace, anytime).  Some require bums-in-seats to work, which is going to cause a lot of headaches.  Some support emergency health services… so that’s clearly top of pile.

Managing the regular workload + end of year workload + COVID19 prep work is bonkers.  Individual people are generally pretty good about it, but people, people suck.  One bad grape can ruin an entire bunch with stupid conspiracy theories, or irrational behaviors.

I have my own opinions about it, but the gist is that the people in charge of this here globe of ours are not dumb.  WHO is made of some of the brightest minds on the planet.  Governments are consulting like crazy, and not making decisions lightly.  (They may be lead by morons, but that’s over a beer or two.)  Everyone is acutely aware of the impacts of shutting down trade for a month.  Impacts that will be felt for 10+ years.  Making those calls is not easy, and it’s not simple.

For the next few weeks I’ll continue to work from home, same with the team.  Kids will be around for an extra break (some homeschooling will be needed).  And with every group activity cancelled and gathering spot closed, it’s going to be a lot of “back to basics” around the house.  Entirely manageable, and I’m quite looking forward to spending more time with the family.

Stay healthy.

New Job

Been a bit hectic here lately.  Fall is always busy, sure enough, but this year feels a whole lot of a healthier kind of busy.  It used to feel like a firefighter, with non stop crises going on.  This year just seems like there’s just a lot to do…and enough actual time to do it.  So either I am getting better at time management, better at those tasks, or simply enjoying it more.  No matter… feels good!

I started a new job this week.  It’s in line with my career goals and interests.  Took about a year to sort it all out.  The details don’t matter a whole lot (or really interest most people outside of my monkeysphere) but the main points are that my team, budget, scope, and user base has grown by an exponential number.

This week has been all drinking from the firehose in terms of learning.  I’m usually pretty quick on the upswing here, absorb/adapt as we go, and the field is somewhat known.  The biggest hurdle is the culture.

So let’s tie this back to gaming a bit.  Way back when I had time on my hands, I ran or helped run various gaming guilds.  I’m a coder by training, so building DKP engines was part of that in the EQ/WoW days.  Setting up rules, running raids, organising chaos.  Heck, I turned my personal notes into a decent income of writing gaming guides.   In that sense, I’ve got WAY more experience in leadership/management than my resume gives credit.

Think about all the times you may have wiped on a raid, looked at what worked and what didn’t, tried something new, and eventually succeeded.  That mindset… of allowing for failure, but learning from it as a group, that’s the foundation of a successful career.  There are plenty of folks who instead are super risk averse and afraid to admit mistakes.  Own up to it, learn from it, don’t repeat it.  It’s when a mistake happens and people try to hide it… that stuff festers.  When it does come to light, and it WILL, things are going to go sideways real quick.

The group I’m now working with does not have that mindset.  Some do!  But the culture is not one I’d consider positive or forward moving – more of a “this is the way we’ve always done it”.  So now I need to find the influencers in the group and figure out how to get a new vision bought.  I’m actually pretty good at that, but it’s a whole lot of effort.  Does mean that I don’t have to do it for everyone… those influencers will do it all naturally.

In my downtime… Dauntless is some good bite sized gaming (<5m sessions).

Dark Crystal – Age of Resistance

There’s a special place in my mind for Jim Henson.  Both Dark Crystal and Labyrinth came out when I was a child, and their mix of horror, fantasy, and comedy was just right.  Labyrinth is the story of character growth (and where I developed a crush on Jennifer Connelly), and the ending itself is finite.  Plus there’s no way to replace the Goblin King!

Dark Crystal though.  That the story about an entire world, and childlike discovery.  The Jim Henson Company had a contest for pre-quel books (in 2013) and eventually scored a deal with Netflix for a series.  It’s entirely puppets, with a few CG elements to blend.  It is rare that I watch something that’s related to my youth and I get quality flashbacks, or similar feels.  Age of Resistance had entire sections where you completely forget you’re watching puppets – and you’re just engrossed.


Each of these is a life-sized puppet, with a person below the robes.

The series can certainly be enjoyed if you never watched the classic.  The lore setting is explained through various means – including a very important scene in episode 7.  It also doesn’t take long to get going on the main plot point… with only a few spots where the pacing feels a bit off.  I’m not sure how much influence Netflix had on the storyline, but the habit of “multiple character points, converging at the end” is certainly present.  Compared to the recent season of Stranger Things, Dark Crystal has some merit in every separate storyline.  And when it reaches the final episode, it ends on a note that allows both a second season and a fairly consistent line to the original film.

What really sets this apart though is the puppeteers.  In every other form of visual media, the actors with the voice provide the non-verbal structure.  Animations are filmed after voice recordings after all. Here though, the scenes are first filmed and then dubbed over.  The nuances in movement…small shakes, twitches, even the larger gestures all feel real.  Like you could reach through the TV and touch them.  We haven’t had that type of fantasy in over 30 years.

The set design, the puppets, the music – all of it falls into the classic style, with Brian Froud around for a lot of the art direction.  It feels almost like lost footage.  Highly recommended.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Was on sale, so I picked it up.  I had played the other two in the series reboot, and rather liked the spoke/hub model on discovery/tombs.  Storyline… the series has way more in common with Assassin Creed’s “nebulous bad guy” motif than much else.

SotTB (huh) seems to have taken a turn from the previous “world first” model to “story first”.  There’s 1 main hub, then a smattering of other smaller locations that are attached.  Pretty much everything is accessible from the first pass through, which I guess is an improvement.  I personally enjoyed the backtracking in the other games, as it provided a sense of player progression.  Here, the skills/items you get within 10 minutes are the same used all the way to the end.  Which is fine I guess – it works for Uncharted.

The storyline here is a fair bit darker, with Lara having to face her own internal demons.  She’s clearly obsessed with exploration to fill in a gap.  And while the whole world is at stake with an apocalypse (that she triggers), apparently there’s time to find stolen dice from a child.  I don’t quite get it.  I do think this is the best villain the series has had in a long time.  You get a much better appreciation for his motivations than expected.  His 2nd in command doesn’t get that treatment.

Combat has been dramatically reduced in volume.  Fact, you barely have any of it until the last 20 minutes.  This split means that combat is more difficult, because you’re never really prepared for it and forget some bits.  The madness arrow in particular is only shown in the final bit, yet acts like a “god weapon”.  I can still remember fights in the 2nd game where I would need to restart a half dozen times due to shielded enemies throwing grenades.  None of that here.  Fact, the last zone I just rushed through with the assault rifle on full blast and ignored all the other mechanics.

Bows are so done.  I still think they are an amazing weapon, but here they are neutered by everyone having a helmet and not being open to a single shot kill.  Instead, the shotgun is king… which really doesn’t have a Tomb Raider fell, right?  I miss the more strategic planning for combat.

The world is very linear, but the puzzles therein are really quite good.  The mirror tomb made me put down the controller to really think about it.  The galleon puzzle looked amazing.  They are real highlights.  The rewards for each are additional skill benefits, which while cool, you rarely notice it.  Swimming faster… ok.  That said, the world looks amazing.  The world designers should get some serious kudos!


A) it does look this good and B) seems eerily swapable with Nathan Drake

The whole package comes out weaker than the previous two.  There are certainly higher highs here, but the lows bring it down.  Playing it again, I would drop the combat difficulty to super easy mode so that the focus can be instead placed on exploration/story.  If you can pick it up with all the DLC (tombs) attached, then that would be a really good deal.

Stranger Things 3

Better than season 2.  Spoilers I suppose.

Stranger Things is an odd one.  Clearly, it’s an homage to the perception of the 80s, with very little basis on the actual 80s people lived through – so it comes across as super meta (anyone under 30 won’t get most of the references).  It’s also a mix of sci-fi/horror, of which there’s very little in today’s market.  Finally, it’s Netflix’s flagship series now that OITNB is on a downward trend.  That puts a LOT of eyes on it, and I can only assume a fair amount of pressure to deliver.

Season 3 follows the familiar formula – a bad force captures a character, there are bad scientists, Eleven has super powers, threat averted in final episode, cliffhanger.  What Season 3 suffers from is character bloat, or rather character redundancy.  Set in ’85, the kids are now 14/15 and Back to the Future is all the rage.

Let’s talk about the additions first:

  • Alexi – Used entirely for exposition as the portal can’t be closed without the information he provides over multiple episodes.  When the info is transferred, he naturally dies.
  • Murray – Was in season 2, but more as a nutso.  Still eccentric but the only real purpose here is to translate Alexi’s Russian.  Irrelevant otherwise.
  • Karen Wheeler – Mike’s Mom and used to project defeatism and regret.  Her chat with Nancy was tragic.  She does a great job representing “normal”.
  • The Russians – The super stereotypical bad guys, following every trope possible, including the inability to aim their guns.
  • Robin – Steve’s partner in slinging ice cream.  An older, female version of Dustin.  Stand-out this season.
  • Erica – Lucas’ sister realized she’s a nerd.  Audience surrogate for most of the story.

And the regular crew.

  • Eleven – fluent in English, goes through some self-discovery, loses her powers by the end.  Given that 99% of the heavy lifting is done by her powers, there’s no way to continue this series if those aren’t returned.
  • Steve – Honestly, he’s more of the star here than Eleven.  He rolls with every punch and has come miles from his start in Season 1.
  • Dustin – Same ol’ Dustin, though a bit more confidence. Most of the story triggers off his actions.
  • Max – Plays a ton of roles here.  Catalyst for Eleven’s growth, comic relief, voice of reason, Billy’s sister… a really strong role.
  • Lucas – Feels like he’s less present, though also the one who’s matured the most by the end.  His actions in face of fear are impressive.
  • Joyce – The derangement is gone and instead replaced by pure focus.  Sure, the focus was there before, but now it seems more tempered by her experience.
  • Nancy & Jonathan – It’s really frustrating to see kids act smarter than these two, and some seriously poor writing when it comes to their relationship.  Only saved by the fact the 2 actors clearly have good chemistry (and are dating).  I will say that Nancy with a gun is impressive.
  • Hopper – Episode 1 and Episode 8 are good.  Everything in the middle makes him look like a rageaholic.  Hopper’s strength lies in the excess of calmness, with odd bursts of emotion.  This season is the opposite and you lose a lot from it.
  • Billy – Episode 1 is great.  Then he becomes a blank faced bad guy until the last 20 minutes of the season.  His arc makes no sense, and the redemption even less so.  All he needed was a hug?  Really?
  • Mike – Even more useless than Season 2.  He’s the catalyst for many of the other character changes, but does little himself.
  • Will – Bad-guy detector, and only when the bad guys are 20 feet away.

The season splits up most of the crew into 4 teams, and has them join up near the end.  Which for story purposes I get.  The downside is that some storylines are really weak compared to others.  Steve/Dustin/Robin/Erica absolutely shine.  Eleven’s feels like Degrassi High.  Joyce/Hopper is like a bad rom-com.  The less we talk about Nancy/Jonathan the better (which is less about sexism than it is about a child in an adult’s world… which really seems lost on the writers.)

I will point out some scenes that have some great weight.

  • Nancy & Karen’s kitchen chat about chasing dreams.  Karen gave up on hers, and the pathos here helps drive Nancy to commit even more crimes in search of the story (which should be hyper obvious given the past 2 seasons).  If Nancy was smarter, then this would have had a different impact.
  • Hopper’s funhouse battle, as well as the basement battles are more rip-offs than homage to classic 80s action films.  Gregori’s Arnold/Terminator vibe really helps sell it.
  • Steve & Robin’s bathroom chat.  There’s an undercurrent that Stranger Things is just a story concocted from the imagination of the Breakfast Club to fill up time.  This scene really drives that point home.  Every beat here is well earned and dramatically changes the group dynamic forward.
  • Hopper’s letter.  This season is all about the transition from one stage of life to the next.  Seeing the kids understand that they are no longer kids.  The letter shows that Hopper understood that fact, and offered some solid advice.  Sure, overly sentimental, but it’s the Hopper than should have been there across the season as he was in season 2.

Frankly, if Stranger Things ended here, I’d be content.  There’s very little growth left for any of the characters, unless Mike & Will decide to actually do something.  The stakes can only get higher if it threatens more than Hawkins, and it’s hard to imagine anything other than a group of Elevens being purposeful in that situation.  The series needs less characters, and more focus.  There are stakes – since every kid is invincible.

Clearly Netflix needs a Season 4 more than the actual series does.



Anthem – Storm Guide

A collection of my thoughts to play a well balanced Storm.  This is specifically in relation to end game content – the journey from 1-30 is what you make of it.  As of March 5, 2019.


The Storm has three main goals – dealing massive damage, setting up combos, and not dying.  The first one is simple enough, the second takes some practice and coordination, while the third can be a real nightmare.

Pros /  Cons

Storm is very similar to a mage class in a standard RPG.  They are masters of elements, and long range combat.  Up close, they have very poor defense, and a very weak melee attack.

To that end, properly playing a Storm is not about going all out crazy, it’s about picking your targets for optimum carnage.  You solo vs a shielded elite is not smart.  You standing behind a Colossus and raining AE damage on multiple enemies is very smart.  You freezing a large enemy so that the entire team can flank is also very smart.  You need to play smart to be a good Storm.


Storm are unique in that they can hover indefinitely, and doing so increases their shield capacity.  Hovering means off the ground, whether a foot off the ground or a mile.

The downside to hovering is that you are going to be wide open to take attacks.  Continual strafing is important, and lots of dashing as well.

Weapon Choice

You are not melee, should never be close to anyone.  Standing farther back, you’ll find that aiming is a challenge as well, leaving limits as to what type of weapon you want to use.  Since you’re going elemental attacks, the actual weapon you use will be sporadic.  Only the effect from the active weapon applies, so your 2nd weapon is essentially a stat stick.

Some options include, in my order of preference:

Thunderbolt of Yvenia – 33% chance to hitting with lightning.  This is really quite deadly when combined with other elemental boosts.

Elemental Rage – Hitting an elite gives a 5% boost to elemental damage for 10 seconds, stacks to 20.  Since all your skills are elemental, this is a significant boost.

Death From Above – Increased weak point damage while hovering, which is really useful for tough enemies.

Divine Vengeance – Every 3rd hit on a weak point applies fire damage.  This is effectively a “free” primer.

Truth of Tarsis – Hits on weakpoints set off combos.  The boost here is less important than the actual damage potential.  Devastators have only 1 ammo, but it deals insane damage.


Ice slows/freezes enemies.  Fire causes area damage, as well as some damage over time.  Lightning deals single large strikes, that in some cases can chain to other targets.  The chart below shows the primer/detonator skills – of particular note is that none of them are Impact or Blast effect, they are all elemental.


While leveling, I don’t think it really matters much.  At GM1+, there really is only 1 viable choice for Focus Seals, and that’s Frost Shards (or Ice Rime as MW).  The ice effect is essential for shutting down spawn points, you can apply it to multiple targets, and if a Storm manages to detonate the effect… then it spreads to everything.  That and the fact that Ice Rime increases Blast Seal damage by 125% after freezing an enemy…hello!  (Arc Burst / Stasis Chain is neat when there are multiple targets, but the damage is still quite low, and does not prime/detonate.)

Blast Seals are a different matter, and you’re really looking at the MW effects.  My choices:

Ponder Infinity – Increases electric damage by 60% while hovering.  This is the most damaging baseline attack, and it gets even better.

Binary Star – Launches 2 living flames instead of one.  Decent damage, with a DoT, and applies a primer.

Venomous Blaze – Applies acid damage after a 3 hits.  Part of a solid fire build, and can melt through armored enemies.


These are passive boosts to your javelin.  In all honesty, the way the game works today these require a significant amount of balance.

In concept, components come in 3 types – increased armor/shields, increased elemental damage, gear (equipment) modifications.  You can only use 1 type of component at a time, and with 6 slots it’s pretty easy pickings since only 5 are of real benefit.

Token of Daring – increases Seal damage by 20% when shields fail.  Shields are always failing on Storm and this is a decent boost.

Tome of Precision – Sniper rifle kills boost lightning damage by 60% for 5s.  The baseline effect also increases lightning damage by 5%.  You’re not going to have too many chances to get the sniper rifle boost on bosses, but regular combat certainly will.

Gunslinger’s Mark – The MW effect is broken right now, but the baseline effect decreases skill cooldown by 50% while lowering damage by 20%.  Without getting into the math, this is a 60% increase in damage potential.

Mark of Wrath – While Focus is on cooldown, Blast damage increases by 50% for 5s.  This is an easy effect to keep active.  It also increases skill damage by 50% but increases cooldown by 20%.  Again 60% overall increase.

Token of the Master – Hit an enemy with Blast and Focus damage is increased by 60% for 5s.  Useful if your Focus skill is decent damage.  Also increases Blast damage by 35%, but that doesn’t seem to impact a single Storm skill.

Support Seals

This appears pretty broken at the moment.  Windwall goes down in 1-2 shots, while Quickening Field’s effect requires you to stay still (bad idea) and a 20% haste for 10 seconds isn’t at all noticeable.  Consider both of these slots as stat sticks.


God rolls focus on the following:

Javelin damage – Extremely useful, and applies to guns and seals equally.

Gear damage – really only useful for Blast Seals and the weapon.

Seal Damage / Cooldown – Nearly all your damage comes from use of skills.  Increasing their damage and lowering their cooldown makes for a much better experience.  At around 50% cooldown bonus from inscriptions, you likely won’t need to use a weapon at all.

Elemental Damage – Increasing this is a major boost to damage.

Luck – Caps at 90, and has a significant impact in the quality of item drops.  Has no other impact.

The rest of inscriptions are so-so.  Increasing the number of combo targets really only applies to specific spawn points.  Weakpoint damage doesn’t apply to elemental attacks, only weapons.  Ultimate damage/cooldown is useful, but with experience you’ll quickly learn that combos fill up that bar very quickly (Practice on Tyrant Mine boss, you should be able to fill the bar after every spider cave spawn.)

That means that of the ~50 inscription types, only 6 have any tangible value.

Final Thoughts

As of now, there certainly is some build variety at GM1, but top end content really only has one option – Ice Rime + Ponder Infinity, and the necessary items to reduce cooldowns and increase damage while hovering.  It will take some tweaks to make Fire a viable attack type (either increased duration of DoT, a short disorient, or a continuous interrupt), to combat Ice’s major defensive benefits, and Electric’s insane instant damage.

New Rig

All that fussing and I decided to just go with it.

Of all the features I listed previously, there were really only 2 options that presented themselves – either the MSI Raider or the ASUS ROG Zephyrus/SCAR.


Lots of pretty keyboard colors

As you can tell, I went MSI.  Three main reasons.  1) MSI is significantly less expensive for the same specs (I’m essentially losing out on Thunderbolt) , 2) it’s actually available in Canada, and 3) it has an expandable storage slot.  It also shipped in 3 days, which is pretty neat.

The slight quirk in this is that the model I wanted, the GE73 Raider, was practically impossible to find at a decent price.  I ended up spending $200 more for the GE75 Raider, which came out in January.  Four things impacted – the display (120mhz vs 144mhz), the graphics card (RTX 2070 vs GTX 1070), the display bezel is much smaller, and the lid doesn’t have strobing lights – yay!   Honestly, I didn’t realize what a difference a small bezel had.

I took the 500GB SSD main drive, with a 1TB HDD.  It has an extra NVMe / PCIe slot so I can add another super fast SSD later.  16GB of RAM, expandable to 32 if need be. The setup phase is the fun part, and to avoid having to download GB of games, I’m in the process of transferring what I can from Steam et. al to the new box.  Thankfully that’s pretty straightforward – just

One of the good bits is that MSI doesn’t have much bloatware.  One game optimizer, one to controls the keyboard lights (I turned them of to give 90mins more battery life), and Norton (which will soon be removed).


The game doesn’t load all that much faster, which is a real disappointment.   I’m running it off the NVMe drive that has the highest possible read/write on the market.  The computer boots super fast, and other items are near instant… so this is clearly an Anthem issue.

I disabled motion blur, and have a few more tweaks to apply on the video.   It runs ultra smooth, with significantly more detail, and the display is so much crisper.  Feels a lot like when I swapped my my standard TV for an HD version.  I’d have to run FRAPS or something similar to get a FPS reading.  This is not the RTX 2070 MaxQ (that’s a smaller form factor).

I’ll need to run some other bits to see how it goes.

Other Bits and Bobs

I like the keyboard and numpad.  Good size, distribution, movement and weight.  That looks weird when I type it out, but people who use a computer daily understand the value.  Trackpad actually works, which was a concern for me with MSI.  Not that I actually use, what with a gaming mouse.

The sound is ridiculous.  It has 2 speakers and 2 woofers, which is better quality than all my bluetooth speakers.  The sound range is impressive.  The speakers point down, which isn’t much of an issue since I have a cooling pad.

Tons of lighting and performance options on this rig.  It’s going to take a while for me to figure it all out.  I have never been a fan of keyboard backlighting (it’s off now), but lighted USB ports in a dark room isn’t a bad idea.

The fans max out with Anthem, and are noticeable.  Less so than my older Clevo/Sager, but you know they are present.  Can barely hear them at normal mode – or when casting a video through Chrome.

While the same screen size, it is an all around smaller laptop.  Fairly close to 15″ laptops I use from work, as they have a larger bezel.

Older Laptop

I’ll need to reset some of the settings and clear some room to make it a family laptop.  More than capable to keep running for a few more years without needing to pump out ultra settings.  I’ll certainly need to transfer some things to the NAS, and other bits to the new box… and as with everytime I do this, I’m going to forget a few things.

Nice Gift

I am not a frivolous spender, and I tend to over research things.  Pretty obvious if you’ve been reading this blog the past few months.  It took a bit of self-convincing that this was the right time, and that the funds could be spent for what I wanted.  The good news in this is that since the bitcoin mining phase is dropping, now’s a great time to get a GPU.