Doom doom doom de doom!
Finally decided on the server, Mankrik. It's PVE, EST, 60%+ Horde. Not happy with the EST, but according to the reddit surveys the PST options were low-population and almost totally Alliance. I won't play PVP servers: Levelling in PVP-only zones is a tedious nightmare of some asshole 20 levels above you killing you over and over for no reason. Camping the graveyard when you give up on your corpse. Chasing you to your home zone and murdering everyone there. It's just a shit experience. PVE lets you flag for PVP when you wanna fight people, and just go adventuring when you wanna beat up pixels.
Logging in took forever, had multiple errors out. Blizzard's servers must be literally on fire.
My characters are:
- Kamimark, Troll Rogue: "Kamimark" is always an Elfy Spellsword or Nightblade, Rogue fits fine. Troll is the most Elfy Horde race; I'd much rather have Blood Elves in Burning Crusade, but that'll be a couple years out if it happens at all.
- Josephcurwen, Undead Mage: Updated: I went in and deleted and chose a new name from Lovecraft. The lack of mixed capitals is ugly, but it's more fitting with the Forsaken culture anyway.
(was Nyärlathotep): Super annoyed that I can't have the unaccented name. Is it taken by the system, or did someone else make a Nyarlathotep in the first 15 minutes? Heavy metal ümlauts fix everything. Strongly considered Warlock, and I love the pet management part, but I hated bag space management for soul shards in retail, and we'll have 25% as much bag space in Classic. I levelled a Mage to 10 in the stress test, and it was interesting, if somewhat harder to keep a grind rolling, so Mage it is.
- Fuzzytomato, Tauren Hunter: I couldn't seriously play F.T. as my main, but I had fun with it so I'm keeping the name, and Tauren are much fuzzier…
Speaking of the server name, in the stress test, I finally dinged 15 and got Mankrik's wife quest. You'll be happy to know I found her, not so happy to hear the state she was in. And I didn't even bury her!
Now we just have to wait for the end of the month to start playing. I'll see you there, right?
New Netflix UFO first contact series. It's rare that a show flunks out with me as fast as this one has. Maybe I'm unfair, maybe I have impossible standards of mediocre TV. Certainly my tolerance for bullshit like FTL, non-functional starships, and implausible human social structures in SF decreases asymptotically with the newness of the work; I ignore or even enjoy it in pre-'60s SF (H. Beam Piper and Robert A. Heinlein can do no wrong), tolerate it in '60s-70s (Star Trek TOS & TAS are cool, even if it's technical nonsense), eyeroll in '80s-90s (TNG is not cool; I tried rewatching recently and made it 8 episodes in before going insane. Babylon 5 and Stargate SG-1 were competent and avoided most of my technical and social complaints), and just say "fuck that" in the 21st C.
So, this. Starts off badly with vapid people oohing and ahhing at maybe the shittiest CGI spaceship ever drawn, an overhead drone shot with fisheye lens for no reason, a shitty CGI impact & Photoshop crystals growing, and lens flares everywhere. Yeah, this is gonna be a chore to look at, isn't it?
Then the main character, Astronaut Niko (Vic from Longmire) & her trivial other are introduced and start "As You Know Bob"-ing each other. With an iPad with shitty plastic prosthetics on it so it doesn't look like an iPad. Apparently this is the distant future, not the present like the previous scenes and the lame Midwest honky fashion suggests?
Next scene she has a shitty CGI starship which makes no structural sense the size of a… tanker? The ring suggests it rotates for pseudo-gravity, but is so thin this thing would have to be city-sized instead. And it'd be vulnerable to radiation, especially when they cruise right up to a giant bright star like Sirius A (8.6 LY away). Rough estimate from on-screen size of the ring is 1mm thick, 10cm across, which would put a 20m thick ring around 20km wide & 30-40km long starship. So something is very wrong here.
She said she'd be gone 3 months each way to Pi Canis Majoris, 96 LY away. They have FTL, but haven't gone anywhere with it? So why does she have to go into what seems to be cryogenic sleep? You'd use cryo for a STL ship that would take centuries to get there, not for magic FTL.
Immediately we're informed that the star isn't where they thought (what, no) and there's a "dark cloud" in the way. And her first concern is maybe they'd hit a planet. OH FUCK YOU. Space is fucking huge; hitting a planet in light years of cloud would be like hitting a BB in the ocean, if you were a microbe.
Making a pit stop at Sirius to get to Pi Canis is like making a pit stop at Barstow on the way from LA to Poughkeepsie, New York; yeah, it's thataway (they are in the same direction from Earth), but you've barely started. The star map shown is ludicrously wrong in scale.
Now there's a black man hologram who's apparently the ship's AI. It's paranoid about the aliens being hostile, and is inexplicably Human-behaving. I loathe machines pretending they're people, and presenting your AI slave as black is some nasty shit.
The crew apparently don't know each other and have to introduce themselves, except they don't finish the introductions so the audience is left in the dark; there was no on-Earth briefing or training, they were just loaded aboard in cold-storage? They say spaceships haven't had uniforms in decades, which I find even less plausible. Shitty space teenager has to lounge in a sofa and text her parents during debriefing; so they have FTL comms, but decentralized command like an isolated exploration ship?
Everyone talks over everyone else, finishes their sentences, which would be fine if it was witty Howard Hawks banter but instead it's lame technobabble and bad leadership. The writers for this have never spent a minute in an engineering or military organization.
Now trivial other, left behind with the annoying child (best decision yet; I'm annoyed they're ever on screen), has gone crazy and is trying to use bird sounds to talk to the shitty CGI UFO, and explains this in a "Holo-Call", which is two actors sitting in the same room with some shitty CGI static to suggest they're light-years apart.
This is 20 minutes in and my hate for the incompetent writers and filmmakers could set fire to the planet. I'm done, stopping. Fuck this.
☆☆☆☆☆ I award you no points
- Losing The Eternal Blue Sky, NPR: Excellent photo-essay on Mongolia's changing economy & environment.
More commonly known for his short story "The Cold Equations", which has been infuriating people who think life is fair and kind for 65 years, he wrote a number of other novels and short stories. I've read this probably 20-30 years ago, but not as a single piece since then.
Spoilers ahead, go read the book, it's VERY short, a novella by modern standards.
Earth is being blockaded by an alien empire called the Gern, a colony ship of 8000 is sent to a newly-discovered planet Athena with rich resources which can be used to make weapons protecting Earth. They're defeated and half the population are set down on an inhospitable high-gravity planet Ragnarok, the other half taken as slaves to Athena to work for the Gern.
The Gern (derived from Hugo Gernsback?) caricature is, uh, problematic:
"The were big, dark men, with powerful, bulging muscles. They surveyed her and the room with a quick sweep of eyes that were like glittering obsidian, their mouths thin, cruel slashes in the flat, brutal planes of their faces."
… (much later) …
"Narth, like all the Gerns, was different from what they had expected. It was true the Gerns had strode into their town with an attempt at arrogance but they were harmless in appearance, soft of face and belly, and the snarling of the red-faced Narth was like the bluster of a cornered scavenger-rodent."
Well. And none of the Earth people are described in any racial way, except one Germanic psychopath.
As for the Humans, most of the "rejects" left on Ragnarok die in the first few days and are whittled down over years to 49, before the new generations acclimated to the gravity and atmosphere, harsh conditions, and carnivorous diet increase back up to 6000+ over another 200 years, which requires a rather high birth rate and low death rate; I don't think it's quite plausible.
It's notable that the first viewpoint character is a woman. She doesn't last long, and after that few women even get to speak, only one about anything except babies, and most of them die young. The final state of the Ragnarok barbarians is a totalitarian tribal society where women and children hide in caves, men go fight; the women are physically and mentally competent, as shown in one animal fight scene late in the book, but not consulted in war.
The transmission of knowledge, in a handful of books somehow written and preserved by these not-quite-paleolithic barbarians, is exceedingly implausible. They make technical and scientific leaps which would be extraordinary in societies of billions, let alone a few thousand. Meanwhile neither Earth nor the Gern make any technical progress in the 200 year course of the book, allowing ancient written knowledge of their blasters and ship systems to help 10th generation barbarians.
I'm not going to criticize a book from the '50s for having FTL drives and communications, but I roll my eyes at it anyway, especially when they propose building spaceships and FTL communicators with stone knives & prowler-skins, as it were.
Native life of Ragnarok consists of: Prowlers (wolf/big cat type hunters), Unicorns (psychotic bison with one horn), Wood Goats, a few species of small and large scavengers, and Mockers (telepathic squirrels), and plants not dissimilar to Earth. It's not much of an ecosystem, and is never explained sufficiently. To some extent, Godwin didn't understand the ecological energy pyramid. I have an untested, almost unsupported hypothesis that the erratic orbits of Ragnarok and its suns may be a post-apocalyptic situation, where these are the few survivors of a more complex ecosystem; that would help explain the intelligence of the few survivors.
They have a series of strong male leaders, willing and able to execute anyone who doesn't share everything with the group, are incorruptible, and single-minded on survival and the long-term ideal of defeating the Gerns. This is, to be blunt, maybe the least plausible thing. I can buy one or two such leaders, but getting a third is beyond impossible. Humans fuck everything up with politics and religion, there's no way they wouldn't.
The barbarians do make good use of all their resources, despite an almost total lack of metals on the planet. And yet at no point are cannibalism or hierarchical resource distribution discussed, which are the usual Human solutions to extremely tight resources. The Aztecs would be very disappointed in Ragnarok.
The rapidity of them adapting to spaceship technology and developing a new tactic against an ancient spacefaring empire is very unlikely; ridiculous, even.
And here's the thing, most of this I can criticize as unrealistic. But the idea of a Hell world breeding up super-soldiers who then seize power from the civilized and establishing their own Empire, that's an idea that appears in many other places.
Historically, the Spartans tried to make this work, despite being in one of the most fertile and pleasant places on Earth, and did make superior warriors… at a cost of crippling their economy and culture, and eventually twice being defeated by coalitions of everyone else in the region who hated them for it.
Germanic barbarians lived in much more difficult environments and had more meat-heavy diets than the Romans, and were physically more powerful; but that generally didn't help them win wars against civilized people until Rome started collapsing for internal reasons (maybe lead pipes, but just as much the abandonment of military traditions by filthy ignorant Christians).
The Zulu Empire rose with Shaka Zulu and his Spartan-like ideals, and almost immediate collapse after his murder by his idiot brother. South Africa ranges from Hell world to some of the most fertile places on Earth, so there wasn't an environmental pressure, only one strong leader.
So the reality of this idea does not work.
In Dune, obviously, with both the Fremen and Sardaukar. The Fremen women, unlike the Ragnarok barbarians, fight like the men do, and Leto II's Fish Speakers, descended from both Fremen and Sardaukar, are all women. Herbert revisits this in The Dosadi Experiment, though the Dosadi survivors are more politically treacherous than superhumanly dangerous.
Harry Harrison's Deathworld series has easily the most dangerous planet, vaguely habitable but every form of life trying to kill invaders, but the successful colonists adapt to the environment, rather than trying to fight and control it.
I honestly don't know how to rate this. It's a very enjoyable read, but there are so many cultural, literary, political, ecological, and technical things I object to that it shouldn't pass.
★★☆☆☆ / ★★★★☆ depending on how I think about it.
There's a sequel, The Barbarians, which I'll likely read soon, and see if that addresses anything or makes it worse.
I got to the red mohawk in char creation, and somehow flashed back to Return of the Killer Tomatoes and named him FuzzyTomato, which would've been an almost topical joke back in 2004.
And it's been fantastic. The game is moderately hard and grindy, but rewards caution, good play, cooperation with other players, gearing up, and resource management.
- FOR THE HORDE!: Thrall is still in charge, and all is right in the world.
- Challenging gameplay: I'm Level 14 now, just soloed Skull Cave which is meant for a group at 10-12. Fighting more than one mob of equal level at a time is dangerous. Some players have hit the level cap of 15 and are doing dungeons, I'm likely to try that tomorrow.
- Resource management: As a rogue, I go thru a huge number of throwing daggers, and now carry 2-4 stacks at the start of a run. Food is a little better since I can fish and cook, but until I got Strider Stew I had no reliable source of buff food. Hunters need arrows and food for their pets. Warlocks need a huge space for soul shards. Mages need reagents for many spells. Bags are rare, small, and expensive. I have: one 8-slot bag, three 6-slot pouches, and the 16-slot backpack. That's it. The biggest bags you can buy are 12-slot, I think, and after that it's very high-level crafting. I'm often dumping low-value loot at the end of a run.
- Shopping: NPC vendors have varied items, unlike most modern games, so it's useful to check anyone you pass. Never know when they'll have an obscure recipe, a healing potion (SUPER vital for dealing with bosses), or a green item. And then there's the Auction House. Even on a limited-time stress test, there's good sales going.
- Game runs fantastic at high graphics settings (on iMac 5K I set 50% render scaling, and then cranked everything to 7 or 8)
- Quests are text-based, not spoken, and don't mark your map, you have to read the instructions and figure it out. Sometimes that's not super clear, but usually they say what you need to do. Quest markers don't show up on your map, turn-ins are just a little dot. The default setting has very slow quest text drawing, but that can be turned off in settings.
- Classic models are blocky and bend weird, like an N64 game rezzed up. You can enable "retail" models, but they looked really out of place in old terrain and buildings.
- Competition for bosses and some quest mobs can be extremely heavy, and it might be better to skip some quests than try queueing for it; I'm not exaggerating, some bosses there's literal lines of a dozen 5-person groups waiting for a chance to hit a boss.
- Run speed is abysmally slow, the world is huge and often vast empty spaces. You don't get riding until Level 40, and it takes 100 gold, which you likely won't have. Every 5 minutes I get to hit a Run Faster for 15 Seconds button on my Rogue, and it just reminds me how annoying normal speed is.
- Don't think you can just use Wind Riders, either. There's a single one in the starting zone, in Orgrimmar; Sen'jin Village and Razor Hill don't have one. There's three in Barrens, but it's a long ways to pick them up. The zeppelins and ships have limited routes, Undercity to Orgrimmar, Orgrimmar to Grom'Gol, Ratchet to Booty Bay. Note no Thunder Bluff zeppelin. Walking to Mulgore and up is a long long hike.
- Guilds don't have banks or perks. They're just chat rooms. And since mail takes an HOUR to deliver, doing trades requires meeting in person or long waits.
- Alliance is still terrible, by all accounts; I haven't bothered to make a char there but if you were bothered by fantasy Nazis in 2004, wait until it's real Nazis in 2019.
- Everything is exhaustively documented on Thotbot, er, WowHead Classic. #nochanges means no surprises, but also the wiki is correct.
- Many players are dedicated to recreating just how stupid Barrens chat was in 2004. Briefly funny, hopefully dies down a bit in the real launch?
If you're at all interested, it's worth getting a 1-month subscription, installing and playing this stress test, and see if you like anything.
- Live name reservation & character creation is Monday, Aug 12: I don't know which server I'll be on yet, I'll update this when I do. PVE, Pacific, but Atiesh or Myzrael, who knows.
I forgot about these when writing What I'm Watching: Expanse S3, but these annoyed me to no end:
During high-G maneuvers, Prax's suit hose gets cut, and he immediately can't breathe. Amos unplugs his suit and gets up, spends 2 minutes crawling over to him and plugging it back in. Why can't Prax's suit hold 2 minutes of air? Also Amos is apparently such a badass he can hold his weight at maybe 3-10G by the fingertips. Don't arm-wrestle that dude.
Just before they rescue the kids, a scene establishes that Bobbie Draper's power armor is just about out of thruster fuel, and Holden says they have no hydrazine, they ironically don't need rocket fuel. Bobbie then spends the next 30 minutes flying up shafts and across vast expanses of open Ionian sky.
So, where'd the fuel come from? First, even an advanced Martian fusion torch spaceship probably would have hydrazine or some equivalent for maneuvering thrusters, and all the spacesuits have thrusters with kind of ridiculous amounts of thrust and range. Second, it's easy to make hydrazine with common chemicals, it's the easy part of rocket science (also drug manufacture). But there's no scene of them refueling Bobbie's armor.
One album a year (a couple of these are more hard rock, but I steered it away from hair metal mostly):
- Ace of Spades, by Motörhead: 1980
- Diary of a Madman, by Ozzy Osbourne: 1981
- Number of the Beast, by Iron Maiden: 1982
- Show No Mercy, by Slayer: 1983
- Defenders of the Faith, by Judas Priest: 1984
- We Care a Lot, by Faith No More: 1985
- Peace Sells, by Megadeth: 1986
- Appetite for Destruction, by Guns N Roses: 1987
- Operation: Mindcrime, by Queensrÿche: 1988
- Conspiracy, by King Diamond: 1989
I started off today with Sound System, by The Clash, but quickly dumped it. Aside from their top 40 hits, they all sound the same and their lack of singing talent and failure to discover anything past three chords on the guitar, really gets on my nerves. They're like the worst caricature of "punk" you'd do as a joke, but carried on for a decade and roughly 500 "best of" albums. You can't listen to any '80s playlist without 25% of the songs being Clash, 25% being teeny little Prince (or whatever he called himself as he crawled further up his tiny butthole), neither of whom I want to hear more than one track a day from ever. And I suppose my Anglophobia doesn't help; English wankers preening about English mob politics. I ain't even mad right now, or this rant would go on longer.
Lovely game, and if you get a good companion one of the most friendly gaming experiences you'll ever have. This was pretty much the reason to get a PS3, now a lot more accessible.
Hm. When it was released in 2012, the fact that it's cooperative multiplayer was actually a secret; you had to discover this, and often led to people abandoning their "NPC" who then had a rougher game. So I'm not going to spoiler-hide that. Find your friend and help each other.
I've replayed it several times now, sometimes being a better guide to a companion, sometimes just wandering around and exploring every nook and cranny. I think I have all the 'cheevs on PS3, or very close. It's unfortunate that it's such a short game, 8 zones and done.
Their prior games, Flower and Flow are also lovely, but much less engaging. I haven't started Sky yet, I may wait for the Mac version.
So, I read these when they came out, some years ago. They ("James S.A. Corey" is a pen name for Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck; I don't know why they didn't just use both their names) wrote a good hard SF STL setting, then there's an unfortunate "space zombies" episode, and then they kind of blow that up for a more traditional space opera thing.
The first season was great, but took a lot from the 1st & 2nd books; the second season was the rest of the first two books. Minor improvement in not having space zombies, but so much of the books are skipped for more standing around talking time.
So finally S3 is free with 'Zon Prime. Well.
The space battles and gunfights are generally very good, when you can see them; about half the time you can't see anything happen except on a tactical scanner, which is "realistic" in that there's no camera handy, but dull storytelling. The "Prax tries to rescue his daughter, but he's a botanist which isn't very useful" story works well.
Unfortunately, this is a politics-heavy season, and Earth politics are incredibly dull and preachy, and have maybe the most annoying character ever introduced since Jar-Jar Binks, Preacher Anna Volovodov (also, shitty translation, it should be Volovodova), blonde bimbo savior. Every scene she's in is a Boomer ex-hippie preaching about love and peace and ideals, or how scared everyone is but it's OK because "god" is with them. Ugh. She contributes nothing, has no real useful skills (supposedly she's a nurse but in the two times that matters, she doesn't do anything but "comfort" people; no medical skills exhibited) but fills about 30% of the screen time of the season. All her Earth scenes are created for the show, they have nothing to do with the books.
Once the politics are resolved, maybe we'll get rid of Preacher Anna? No, she shows up at the Big Dumb Object for no reason (which is where she comes in in the books), and preaches about how "There are things in the Universe much bigger than we are", but none of them are her god, so it's utterly pointless. The military characters try to ship her off with the other civilians, and she finds a way to stay just to annoy me.
I'm impressed that there's two full-on mutinies and lunatic captains shooting their own people rather than the "enemy". In real navies you don't get that kind of action too often, because nobody that insane is ever given control of a multi-billion-dollar vessel. Actual military people at upper ranks tend to be selected for calmness and sucking up to hierarchy, any rebellion is beaten out of them when they're cadets, but here we get a traitor and an actual space pirate deciding who walks the plank.
Bobby Draper is still very cute, and keeps showing what dicks the Martians are. Earth people are assholes with no redeeming traits, Belters are piratical but generally fun, but the Martians are like the Mitchell & Webb Nazi sketch, but none of them realize they're the baddies.
Finally a dumbass Belter, a girl hopped up on drugs screaming for "vengeance", two annoying paparazzi, James "What the Fuck Have You Done Now" Holden, and a hallucination of Joe Miller's Stupid Hat turn on the Big Dumb Object and go have the magic space opera part of this season. Most of this doesn't make a whole lot of sense, physics-wise or in Human psychology. But it turns on the Plot Device so they can go explore 1300 star systems next season.
★★★☆☆ but I fast-forwarded over a lot of Preacher Anna's preachin', I'd probably give it ★☆☆☆☆ if I had to sit thru all of it.