Tag Archives: Kerbal Space Program

May Vidya

“Stay busy at all costs! Don’t become bored!” This is one of my ‘rules’ I’ve been following when I decided to stop drinking. I’ll toss a list together whenever I get the motivation to do so, but this one I found is key to not drinking. Boredom leads to misery which leads to drinking. Obviously it’d be best to do something useful and productive to stay busy, but sometimes you need to do whatever you can to get by. When motivation is near zero, when your mood is trash, when you don’t want to actually do anything productive, what can you do? Video games!

So here’s a little bit about the three games I’ve been playing as I get back into sober swing of things.

Kerbal Space Program

Kerbal Space Program deserves it’s own post; it’s one of my all-time favorite games ever. As a kid I loved the Flight Simulator series, have always been passionate about spaceflight, and enjoyed building Legos. This game combines all three into a fun and accurate game about spaceflight. You build your own rockets/spaceplanes and explore the solar system; the only limit to what you can do is your own stubbornness and creativity. Kerbal Space Program also has a fairly accurate physics system; you really learn orbital mechanics in a hands-on way. Seriously, you’ll understand why we can only launch to Mars every two years, understand what the hell delta-v is, and learn the massive difference between orbital and sub-orbital flight, among a ton of other things.

Kerbal also has a way of keeping you playing even if you’re done with the game. It’s really easy to screw something up like running out of fuel or becoming stranded on another planet/moon which naturally leads to the inevitable rescue missions! No Kerbal left behind! There is no real need to rescue stranded Kerbals — they live forever — but something about fixing your screw-ups is immensely satisfying. So even if you’re done exploring the solar system there are usually a handful of Kerbals that you can rescue. Sometimes your rescue missions also get stranded meaning you need to rescue the rescue crew as well. Kerbal Space Program is rescue missions all the way down!

In my current game I have a crew of Kerbals stranded in a very high orbit around the sun. In terms of our real solar system, these Kerbals orbit between Mars and fucking Pluto — they’re way the fuck out there — and I just now got a rescue ship to them. They’ve only been in space for 70 years so I think they’re happy to see the rescue ship! Sadly the rescue ship doesn’t have enough fuel to make it back home, so I’ll have to piss away another 20 in-game years doing gravity assists until I can actually get them back to Kerbin, the home planet. After 100+ years in spae I’m sure my Kerbals will love to finally walk on the surface of the planet they call home. Those poor guys…

A bit about PS Now…

We somehow ended up with a PS Now subscription. It happened the way all things at our house happen; one of the kids wanted to play one of the PS Now games and only played it for a few days sticking me with a recurring $10 per month subscription charge. I figured since we had it maybe I should see what games are on there. I can always cancel if they don’t have anything.

PS Now, in case you’re not aware, is PlayStation’s game streaming service. You don’t download the games onto your PS4/5, you play them over the internet. This sounds like a great idea — you can play a fuckton of older games that you might’ve missed without purchasing them or storing them on a limited space hard drive — but has some glaring downsides. You might already be aware that latency comes into play here, and you’d be correct. By streaming the game, all information, button presses, audio, video, has to be sent over the internet. Can this even be done fast enough to yield a playable game?

No. At least not with our totally ass internet. I’m blaming Comcast again. Let’s say I want to open the menu on a game. I hit ‘O’. The signal goes to the PS4 via Bluetooth, via the PS4 to our Wi-Fi router, via the router to the modem and onto our ISP, then it gets sent to the PlayStation servers where the ‘O’ button press is actually received and processed. Shit happens there and the “opened menu” command gets passed right back along via the same path back to my TV. Sure the internet is fast, but even a few hundred millisecond delay is painful. PS Now works great if you can deal with the slight delay to everything. I could not imagine playing a Dark Souls-esque game via streaming though.

Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown

Ace Combat 7 is a one of these PS Now games I’ve been playing. For some reason I’ve been wanting to play one of these shitty flying/shoot shit games for awhile and it scratches my itch well even if it isn’t realistic at all.

Not that I was expecting it to be realistic. I knew what I was getting myself into: a dramatic and chaotic shoot-airplanes-down game with zero realism to it. Sure the planes are real — you start with an F-16 — but beyond this the game is a joke. You have 70 missiles for some reason. Your radar only locks onto enemies within a few thousand feet (or meters, does it matter?) of them. Dogfights only happen at 5’000 feet. Hell, there isn’t even a button to retract your landing gear, it goes up automatically when you take off. Flaps, speed brakes, fuel management, what the hell are those things? There’s a ‘go fast’ button and a ‘slow down’ button. That’s all you need to fly a technologically complex fighter jet.

If you’re looking for an accurate combat flight simulator, don’t play Ace Combat 7. (I played Jane’s F-15 a long time ago. That game was accurate and therefore boring. You take off and fly for two hours before reaching your target. You lock onto airplanes 30 miles away and lob a missile at them. If you blow them up you don’t even notice anything beside the blip on your radar screen disappearing. Targeting a tank with a laser guided bomb is a pain in the ass. Most missions you get shot down by a surface-to-air missile because that’s what really fucking happens IRL.) If you want to pretend you’re a badass fighter jet pilot zipping around the sky with no regard for realism, go for it. It is a fun game, but please don’t sign up for the US Air Force after you play it for a few hours.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is the precursor to Skyrim and the sequel to Morrowind. Most people have played Skyrim and this was the sort-of-popular game that came before it. And Morrowind? One of my favorite games of all time. When Oblivion came out in 2006 I was super excited — finally a new Elder Scrolls game! — only to be sorely disappointed.

Oblivion is boring. Nearly everything about it is boring. I know I should consider it on its own merits but if the company that made Morrowind churned out shit-ass Oblivion how can you not be disappointed? I was also an angsty teenager so this transgression by Bethesda was especially egregious.

Morrowind has a varied and alien landscape, Oblivion is trees and mountains. Morrowind has a unique culture inspired by Eastern and Native Americans, Oblivion is Middle Ages 2.0. Morrowind had gameplay that could be used and abused, and you can’t even levitate in Oblivion! Morrowind had boring faction quests making you feel like some unknown piece of shit (which you were), in Oblivion you’re the hero of everyone you introduce yourself to. (Oblivion didn’t go as far as Fallout 4 or Skyrim though, thank God.) There are more examples but I need to stop otherwise I won’t play Oblivion anymore.

It’s actually fun though. I’m looking through some nostalgia goggles to be sure but Oblivion does have a few perks to it. Sure it’s shitty and boring, but in retrospect Oblivion pulls off questlines like no other Elder Scrolls game has. Morrowind’s faction quests were shitty and boring, and Skyrim’s a bit over the top (that whole you show up on day one and the entire group fucking loves you for some reason), but Oblivion hits that perfect middle ground. There’s good progression in the questlines of factions; you show up as a nobody and slowly turn into a somebody and it feels like you’re contributing something to the group. I also have fond memories of the daedric quests in Oblivion while not remembering any of them in Morrowind or Skyrim.

A big gripe though: PS Now fucking sucks. The slight delay makes combat in Oblivion nearly impossible. You slightly move the stick and it doesn’t register. You move the stick a bit more and your aiming cursor moves 45 degrees across the screen; try shooting a goblin with an arrow as he’s charging at you with those wonky controls and tell me how it works out. It doesn’t. Anything that requires precise aim, like bows, magic spells, and magic scrolls are nearly unusable. It seems I’ll have to have a melee build because when you’re smacking someone with a mace you don’t have to be as precise with your aiming!

As I write this I realize I haven’t played Oblivion in a week. Am I already burning out on it? Maybe. But maybe I’ll play it later today, we’ll see. If anything it feels like I should make a dedicated post on this game someday because there is a lot to bitch about and to praise. It’s a conflicting game to be sure.

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My Laptop Sucks

Let me introduce you to my computer, a Lenovo laptop that is about three or four years old. It’s amazing how time flies because I didn’t think it was that old. My reason for buying the damn thing was me deciding that I’d like to pretend to be a writer, author, blogger, or something. At least I’ve been pretty successful at sticking with it because I’m still writing and posting. My computer at the time was some derelict desktop PC that was about ten years old at the time. It being a derelict desktop PC meant that it wasn’t portable at all; any writing I wanted to do had to be done in the cold, lonely, dark, and in the summer occasionally flooded basement. It wasn’t very conducive to productive writing that’s for sure. But besides that, the catalyst for “upgrading” (if you could call it that) was this: Google one day sent me an email or a notification stating that Chrome wouldn’t be supported on Windows XP anymore. At that time that I realized that, yes, my PC was old as dirt. I couldn’t deny it anymore.

On my quest to pretend to be a writer the aspect of a shiny, new laptop was also enticing. It could be my multi-hundred dollar “promise” to myself that I would write. It’s hard to not write when you spent $300-400 to do so. And since it was new I’d have even more incentive to write.

I went to newegg.com (I would link to it, but they’re not giving me affiliate money so fuck the small effort required to do so) and searched for the cheapest shit I could find. The one I purchased was about $300 if I recall it correctly. This is not a whole lot for a laptop and the reviews explained why: it was a “low-end” laptop that seemed to have a lower quality build, cheap speakers, low processing power, and basically everything about it was “lower-end.” One review said something like this, “The computer is good for basic work. I bought it for my daughter for college and it’s perfect for simple stuff like note taking.” Sounds perfect for writing huh?

My intentions were to also get a shitty computer so I wouldn’t be tempted to play video games on it. This laptop runs Kerbal Space program and Flight Simulator 2004 (!!!) even slower than the decade-old PC in the basement did. Mission Accomplished I guess.

Hang on. My laptop dropped the WiFi signal again. Let me restart it. Because that’s the only way to fix the problem.

And I’m back. This is what this post is really about: my shitty laptop’s inability to stay connected to WiFi. What happens is this: I take a break from writing to either eat food, use the bathroom, or wander off simply from being distracted. If I’m gone for more than five minutes the WiFi signal is lost and any and all troubleshooting doesn’t fix the problem. It also happens if I close the screen or put it into sleep mode. I usually take these breaks between actually writing a blog post and posting it, and you can imagine the slew of things that can go wrong.

I load the post into WordPress, and WordPress has a “save draft” button that usually works just fine. If the internet is lost though, WordPress does not save a draft despite telling me so. Countless times I’ve hit the “save draft” button, had it tell me that saving the draft was successful, all without having internet; WordPress didn’t save a damn thing. Luckily Google Docs saves changes even offline (and tells you so), so editing posts there doesn’t cause me an issue, and only when I make changes in WordPress do things magically go missing. It is soulcrushingly frustrating to lose a post after you’ve edited the hell out of it.

Making the problem more frustrating is my inability to solve it before the issue occurs. When I’m writing and things are going okay I don’t care about any possible lurking problem about WiFi and internet connectivity. It’s only after things go wrong do I feel the need to solve them. But as stated before, this usually occurs in the middle of uploading a blog post so I usually solve that problem before even giving a damn about the recurring WiFi problem. Also, when you lose internet the first thing you want to do is an internet search to see if anyone else has the problem and what the possible fixes are. Internet out, I want to solve it but can’t search anything because the internet is out. And if the internet works okay? Well, then I don’t care to solve the problem because there is no problem to solve.

Windows PCs are pains-in-the-asses to troubleshoot too. All the customization and freedom that comes with a  Windows PC also means troubleshooting is frequently oblique and complex. A few solutions I’ve looked up involved using command prompts and all of that and while I’ve completed a few of them they still haven’t solved the problem. As with everything, it isn’t a major problem that is threatening my writing or blogging in anyway, it’s just frustrating as fuck when I have to shut my computer off anytime I need to leave it for a few minutes. That or restart the damn thing after it drops the WiFi signal.

When I left the computer this time I manually shut off WiFi, and then put it in sleep mode. I turned it back on, and manually turned on WiFi and that seems to have worked. Dammit maybe I do have a fix after all? I just need to shut WiFi off anytime I leave apparently. While that might be clunky as fuck, it sure beats restarting it multiple times while trying to post something. It’s a good PC and serves its writing purpose admirably, but damn is it annoying when it loses internet. And thanks for listening to this utterly pointless rant about my shitty computer.