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.

MHW: Weird Little Nuggets

As part of my clearing of old quests, I paid a bit more attention to Palico gear and Tailraiders.  There’s something addictive about bars that keep growing after all.

My Vigorwasp has been maxed for a while now – the free heals and 1time free rez is great for breaking new grounds on monsters.  But if I want put damage, then there’s an odd mix with the Orchestra (tons of buffs) or the Meowlotov Cocktail (bombs, bombs, and more bombs).  The latter works best in a smaller area, especially with a stunned monster.  The former just works.   At least now I know, and it will give me a few more options as I hunt forward.  It’s nice to see how much those gadgets have improved since the base game (Plunderblade is arguably worse).  And the best way to get there is to just keep doing Arena battles.

Another bar that moved was the Tailraiders.  These used to max out at level 5, and frankly didn’t do all that much except some minor damage.  In some rare cases, they gave you some extra loot that you needed.  Hunting the Guiding Lands, these guys boost the Dragon ore collection process by about 15%, so it’s worth getting them.  But regular battles?

Sure enough, one hits level 6 and I get a notice that I can Pawswap.  This is a trading minigame where you get extra items (including cosmetics) from exchanging items with the Tailraiders.  It’s a mix between Pickers and a treasure hunt I guess.

Levels 7-10 now have the Tailraider drop loot when they die, use their gear more often, summon a second one when they die, and deal a stupid amount of damage.  And since the Iceborne expansion gives you a gadget that can summon them from anywhere, it’s a whole lot easier to find them.

Leveling them took a bit to figure out.  Attacking monsters certainly helps, but it’s limited to a portion of the bar at a time.  A neat trick instead is to use the Wide Range decoration (level 1 is fine) and chug a potion with them nearby.  See the green mist hit them, then turn to the Handler and check your rewards.   Combined with Free Meal (25% of not consuming the potion) and it should take less than 20 potions to max from 5 to 10.

Finally, Poogie.  You get this pig in the base game and he starts wandering around in Iceborne.  Was mostly just a thing to see.  Now though, there’s a super simple minigame to pet him.  If he likes you, carry him in your arms and wait for the controller to shake.  Put him down and he’ll dig for some pig cosmetics.  It’s both cute and absurd to see a pig dressed in a tutu.

Some weird little bits in MHW that I really wasn’t paying attention to… you know, cause of the giant laser shooting apes and all.  There’s a crazy amount of stuff in here.

Oh, and Anthem hit year 1 over the weekend.  Still has the Christmas lights up in town.  So there’s that.

Luck = Preparation

This weekend had a very strange even happen in the NHL.  A zamboni driver ended up in nets during a regular game, won said game, and managed to set a few records along the way.   This was the Leafs vs Hurricanes matchup, and if you follow hockey, you have to really wonder what the Leafs have done to the hockey gods to end up where they are now.

Back on point.  David Ayres is a zamboni driver for the Toronto Marlies (AHL, one level under the NHL).  He’s 42 years old and played in the juniors.  Had a kidney transplant, and plays men’s pickup as a goalie.  From time to time, he’ll end up practicing with either Marlies or the Leafs as injuries / health breaks demand.  So while he’s a “warm body”, he’s not exactly in NHL form.

In the NHL, teams suit up 2 goalies for each game.  The backup is there in case they need to swap due to poor performance or injury.  Carolina lost their primary goalie in the first due to a fluke play.   Normally when this happens, teams scramble to find a backup based on a local short list from the home team (in this case, Toronto).  Sure enough, they get a 1 game deal sorted out with Ayres and his only job is to sit on the bench in case things go really wrong.

Things went really wrong in the second period and Caroline lost their backup to injury.  Enter Ayres on the ice, playing AGAINST the team he’s used to practicing with.  In any normal world, this would be an advantage for Toronto – a cold goalie, who is not NHL caliber, and who you’ve practices shooting against multiple times.  It’s like the lottery.

First two shots go in.  Then a wall goes up and Carolina decides to play some serious hockey.  Ayres ends up with the win and memories that will last a lifetime.

 

On one side, there’s a relatively regular guy that gets a break in the big leagues and will enjoy his 15 minutes of fame.  He was aware he was on the short list and knew it could happen, so he was ready for it and took full advantage.  Good on him.

On the other side there’s the Leafs.  A massively squandered opportunity.  There’s a very good reason no 3rd string backup goalie has ever recorded a win until this weekend.

That was both one of the most entertaining hockey games I’ve ever seen and one of the most disappointing.  Habs won at least (though they have now traded what feels like half the team.)

Growing Up is Cathartic

While this applies in general, I’ll be using MHW to explain this point.

Screw Deviljho.  That giant enraged pickle was the bane of my existence when I stopped playing base MHW.  He takes up a massive amount of screen real estate, loves to get in close, moves like the wind, and goes super mode when he has something in his mouth.  Sure, I killed him a few times but I really needed a better setup, and decorations where a very long farm.

I’ve got the start of my end game builds going now in Iceborne.  My elemental Charge Blade build (4 piece Namielle) is just ridiculous damage, and my Light Bowgun (Rajang Sticky) can keep almost any monster stunned for most of the battle.  Battles are generally under 10 minutes now.  Figure it’s about time to clear out the ol’ quest log from the base game and collect the last bits I didn’t have.

That means hunting a pile of tempered monsters (rare, random, and hard hitting), as well as some interesting duos (Teostra & Lunastra).  Bring it on.

You know what happens when you put a tempered High Rank monster next to a Master Rank geared player?  The player doesn’t get touched, and the battle lasts about 3 minutes.  Doesn’t matter which monster.  Even that damn pickle.

Is it fun though?  Oh yeah.  It’s not so much in the sense of revenge, but in seeing how MUCH this difference really means.  The increased offense/defense has a major impact, I get that.  But the number of decorations and build variety are oh so pleasant.  I no longer feel like I’m playing a slower cousin’s version of a real build.  And there’s still plenty of optimizations I can take.

Real World Analogy

I was having a chat recently about mindsets, and how my wife and I have friends that are still in that teenager mindset.  Where the boring aspects of life don’t phase them, since they are often not considered.  I don’t mean this in the narcissistic way, where they know they exist but choose to ignore them.  More in the “life will figure it out” way.

I have some fond memories of those days – like the bank account being empty a few days after pay day and some solid partying.  I have depressing memories of realizing the burden of responsibility my 20s brought upon – like heating and a mortgage.  The sheer amount of effort required to build a foundation so that I could manage that and STILL have a good amount of fun.  I can do the things I did as a teen today.  It may seem there’s the same lack of worry, but it just means I’ve become so much better at finding the right balance to fit that stuff in.

The world has changed a lot since I was a teen, and so have I.  It’s not like there’s a time capsule I can enter and use my knowledge of today on the kid I was then.  Hell, most of it wouldn’t really apply.  But growing up, finding the a similar amount of joy as I had as a teen and still finding the balance in the “adult stuff” is friggin’ euphoric.  I am thankful to be in this position at my age.  I’m content.  Hope you are too.

Building Compete

My personal mindset is one of compete.  It often manifests itself in sport, or perhaps that’s the most obvious outlet.  It does however permeate my personal drive in my day to day life.  It’s not about lack of contentment, it’s about trying to continually get better.  I think I’m a decent cook/baker, and there are a few recipes that are locked down, but I generally continue to tweak every thing I make to see if I can make it better.  Same with work.  Everytime someone says no, I see it as an opportunity.  I’ve made a career out of it frankly… and about 20 years faster than most.  I know what I can accomplish and really dislike not meeting that level of effort.

The largest challenge I have had with this is projecting this mindset onto other people.  It was a real hurdle in my 20s, and as I’ve grown (let’s say matured), it’s been easier to just let people be themselves.  Rather I just lead by example, and people are typically motivated enough by that alone.  Certainly is the case in my men’s hockey.

Kids

With my own kids, this is a really tough skill set to teach.  Even leading by example is hard, because they don’t quite grasp what success/failure means in most activities.  Guitar is a good example.  I’m quite bad at it, but the kids think I’m solid.  Plus, there’s the superhero complex kids have with their parents, where we are infallible.  They will be teens or low 20s before they can look back and understand what it actually took to get through these years.

One thing I’m really not good at (but again, my kids think I’m good at) is visual arts.  I’m more in the architecture space, rather than the painterly one.  Before the spring hits, I’ll be investing in some art supplies, Bob Ross videos, and some happy mistakes.

Coaching

I’ve coached boys competitive in the past. There are dips in compete, but generally they get the concept of compete.  They know that they can’t win if they don’t have the puck, and will have a very high drive to get it back once they lose it.

For the past two years, I’ve been coaching girls house.  House is the where players learn the sport and play for fun.  And girls (at this age at least) are certainly as good as boys, there’s just a WHOLE lot less of them in the sport.  Like 10:1 ratio in my area.  That leaves two challenges here.

  1. Instill a sense of compete in the house girls, where only a fraction have it innately
  2. Get more girls in the sport

And 1 cannot come at the expense of 2, so it’s not like I can push the girls extra hard… they need to have fun and spread the sport around by word of mouth.  If it was boys comp… well that’s pretty easy, there’s a lineup of other boys wanting that spot.

I don’t have an answer to this yet.  The other coaches are in a similar spot, and they have many years of experience between them.  As frustrating as it is to watch someone underachieve continually, it’s infinitely more rewarding to see them meet that potential and make the link of effort –> reward.  Sometimes that clicks for a long time, sometimes it’s an etch-a-sketch and they’ve forgotten about it by the next game.

I think I’ve got some reading to do.

Idea vs Execution

I’m battling the flu, and that allows for some Netflix binges while I’m conscious.

I’ve watched Dracula (if you liked BBC’s Sherlock, you’ll like it), Locke & Key, and In the Shadow of the Moon.  The last two really made me think about the difference between a solid idea and solid execution.

Some MAJOR spoilers ahead.

Locke & Key

Based on a successful comic horror series, it’s taken years to get an adaptation.  The Netflix version is much more fantasy, which removes nearly all of the possible tension.  The second issue is that anything set in a realistic setting requires a higher fidelity to logic.  Otherwise you get into a deus-ex-machina situation where “magic” always saves the day.  The main antagonist wants the keys but can’t take them from the Lockes.  But somehow, they can physically attack the family… which seems like a giant loophole to collect the keys.

This means that another level of tension has to be applied, and here it’s the YA threat of high school drama.  It’s quite poorly executed, spending a solid chunk early in the setting, then ignoring it for a few episodes, only to jump back into it later.  Tyler in particular waffles all over the place, with inconsistent altruism and selfishness.

The final episode has the natural twist, that the teens clearly pick up on but ignore.  They do their thing, knowing it’s dangerous.  See, if I told you that by opening a door, the stuff behind the door would try to attack you, would you close the door by pushing (thereby protecting yourself from the other side) or pulling (exposing every part to the other side)?  That level of stupid is infuriating, given the general level headed seen in all other episodes.  Then you get flashbacks to explain the final twist… and somehow you have to assume that the bad guy is able to pretend to be a FULL TIME STUDENT for weeks, all while impersonating other characters at the same time.  That’s some impressive dedication.

The good thing about Locke & Key is that it’s entirely watchable by the family.  My 7 & 9 year old can grasp nearly all of it.  The characters are interesting, and they want to know what the next key does.  In that sense, the execution of the series is super solid.  It’s the idea itself that needs some work.  Maybe season 2 will do better.

In the Shadow of the Moon

A sci-fi time travelling whodunnit, more in line with Twelve Monkeys.  The main storyline follows a policeman chasing a killer who appears every 9 years, and becomes obsessed with it.  To the point of losing touch with everything else.

The general lack of attachment to anything but the killer puts the protagonist in an exposition mode.  You’re never rooting for him, since there’s no empathy as he’s not attached to anything.  He doesn’t make bonds over time, he loses them.

The sci-fi part however is very solid.  The limits around time travel, the impacts, the technology, the social impacts… it just works.  It’s that bleeding edge sci-fi, that’s you feel is just at the tip of our fingers, enough that you know it’s not real but that it’s possible.

The downside is that the sci-fi part is only about 30% of the film, with about 50% more of a procedural detective story.  And you need a rather solid actor to transition across 30 years for you to even remotely care about…there’s some solid mis-casting in this area.

So here we have a movie where the idea itself is amazing but the execution is lacking.  Which, I find after spending 30+ years engulfed in sci-fi, is the default setting and the reason short stories are so much better to explore an idea.

Getting Better

Hiccups and all, both are worth the watch.  No one bats 100%, and they both excel in their own areas.  Just hope you don’t have to get the flu to watch ’em.

MHW: Under the Covers

I’m actually going to start off with Dauntless to help set the stage.  The game is solid, if a bit on the shallow end.  You have a few weapon types, some rather simplistic combos (I’ll get to strikers), elemental attacks, slotted gems, and monster weaknesses/breaking parts.  Oh, and there’s some very rudimentary gathering for potions in game.  Behemoths have flat resistance/armor based on their level, and a strength/weakness to a particular element.  It helps to use their weakness, but due to the way weapon skills are balanced, it often is best to ignore it.

So let’s cover balance for a second.  All weapons (except strikers) have simple combos.  You need to know when to use them so as not to get hit, but they don’t necessarily chain into something larger.   Strikers though… they have an interesting buff mechanic where if you apply the buffs, your damage starts reaching crazy levels.  It’s a high skill ceiling weapon, and since it’s been around in late summer, has been leading almost every chart.  Combine that with a specific skill set to increase attack speed and critical hits… then it’s a walking death machine.  Cue calls for nerfs – when in reality it’s the other weapons that need a similar overhaul.  To be fair, this is only a concern when you’ve killed every single Behemoth, maxed out most of your gear, and are farming mastery levels.  Until that point, the game is a blast.

MH Weapons

There are 14 types, and each one is entirely viable for the entire game.  Speed runners with max level gear will likely end up with the Heavy Bow Gun due to some rather ridiculous boosts within, but it comes with some major defensive drawbacks.  Longswords provide a lot of damage, with some OK counter ability.  Charge Blades are opportunistic and can deal the highest single attacks in the game.  Hammers can chain ledge-jumps to easily stun almost every monster.  Insect Glaives keep you off the ground more almost the entire fight.

And each weapon comes with an upgrade path that is not simply “more numbers”.  They get more decoration slots, different critical values, different elemental attacks, more (or less) augment slots.  In specific cases, it will change the type of ammo you can use, the recoil from attacks, and the reload speed.

I’ll compare 2 Charge Blades to illustrate a point.

  • Deep Schnegel II – 900 dmg, 0% crit, 480 ice damage, power phials, level 10, 2+1 decos
  • Luna Eostre – 1044 dmg, 10% crit, 420 poison damage, impact phials, level 12, 2+2 decos

On paper, the Luna Eostre (LE) is better in almost every regard.  It does more base damage, it has a higher crit, it does poison (which deals lots of damage over time), it has impact phials (which can knock down a monster), is a higher level, and has better decoration slots.  If you had this weapon, honestly it would be pretty amazing.

But…

Deep Schnegel II (DS) is 2 levels lower, meaning it gets MORE upgrade options.  And there’s a particular armor set skill (Namielle’s 4 piece) that boosts elemental damage by 150, and with Ice Attack 6 (from a necklace) you’re looking at even higher.  Combined, that 480 ice damage climbs to over 1000.  Since elemental damage can’t crit, and isn’t impacted by wounded parts… you don’t need to aim as much as you would with the LE, and can therefore attack much faster.  The challenge here is that you will find some monsters that are immune to ice, so you’ll need to swap to another element.  It will absolutely demolish Shara.

And that only covers 1 weapon.  Heavy Bow Guns are even more complex due to ammo restrictions and play styles (sticky ammo for distance fighting, or spread ammo for close up), let alone the bit about reloading while ledge jumping, or the dodge evade increases.

And I haven’t even gotten into the various monster parts that have varying levels of defense/weakness… which can change during the course of battle too.

It feels like a rabbit hole.  The beauty of which is that this “hyper optimized” numbers game doesn’t at all detract from your personal playstyle.  Unless you’re doing something extremely wrong, you will always beat the clock to kill a monster.  And if you’re having fun that way, hell, all the more power to you.