Your own way

“They found old 99 knocking on the front door, trying to get back into Atmore..”

Before the age of around 12, music did not really play much of a part in my upbringing. While my father had a strong preference for us kids to spend our days outside, I think the dearth of music related more to my parent’s lack of spare money. It wasn’t really until the first year of high school that popular music hit my radar. It was around the same time I became a lot more aware of the concept of conforming to the norm and trying to fit in.

My early exposure to music came from commercial radio, what other kids listened to during lunch at school, and of course the now iconic Australian music TV show, Rage. I was destined to have very mainstream tastes until my Mum pulled out a very old record player and let me listen to her collection of LPs. It turned out Music had been a big part of her life growing up, especially when she was working and single.

I listened to the likes of The Carpenters, John Denver, Kenny Rodgers, Dr Hook, Elvis, ABBA, The Beatles, Neil Diamond – music that at the time was very uncool. I consumed their full albums, and in amongst a lot of stuff I didn’t think much of, I got an appreciation of what a truly classic song can be, found B side gems, and realised I was going to miss out on a whole lot of good music if I just followed what everyone else listened to. It was my first – easily hid – move to being an individual.

I’m not talking about being an individual by rebelling against conformity. That just ends up being a sort of conformism in its self. I’m talking about making choices and decisions on what you like truly for yourself – even if that is what everyone else likes, or if it is as obscure as all hell.

I am proud of my digital music collection. It currently has a bit over 4,000 songs in it, carefully gathered over the last 20 odd years. It is made up of only songs I love and can listen to over and over again – usually just a couple from each album. It is a very eclectic mix divided across 13 genres, current to more than 90 years old, from very popular to completely uncool. It doesn’t matter what I click on – I know I will enjoy listening to it. It wouldn’t be there otherwise. It is more than just a source of entertainment, but a partial reflection of what makes me, me.

On the weekend, I spent half a day searching for music on YouTube. One of the Yachting videos I was watching used Christopher Cross’s award-winning song, Sailing, as part of its background music. I had forgotten just how brilliant that song was, so I went off to find the best version I could to add to my music library. YouTube suggestions lead me further down the path of classics from the 70 and 80, by artists including Lionel Richie, Billy Ocean, Roger Hodgson, David Gilmour, and in the end, Dr Hook.

One of the B sides I loved in my youth was by Dr Hook. It talked about the stories a boy and his brother heard from their prison guard grandfather. The final stanza or two was about one prisoner who was transferred to a different jail, broke out, and was found knocking on the door of their old Jail asking to be let back in. It had always struck a chord with me, and I had looked for the song a number of times over the years without luck. (I couldn’t remember enough details to identify it). It was also not on the various Best of Compilations I had purchased, hoping to find it that way.

At the end of my music hunting on the weekend I stumbled across it. It was called Atmore – but I think it is actually meant to be called 99 and me.

If you want to know why I play EVE the way I do – my own way – this song was one of the very first reasons.

This idle thought was brought to you by

The Nosy Gamer –

http://nosygamer.blogspot.com.au/2017/08/winter-is-coming.html
http://nosygamer.blogspot.com.au/2017/09/eve-online-lifeblood-surprise-expansion.html

And Wilhelm Arcturus

https://tagn.wordpress.com/2017/09/05/meaningful-progression-in-new-eden-pve/

Who got me thinking once again about how the game of EVE can be for the Solo Empire Player, and where it might be heading, if anywhere.

Opened Eyes

(One of the Non-EVE Posts I mentioned earlier.)

My son regularly tries to access Reddit. He is 12.

He has two iPads (one for school, one for home), an Xbox One S, and a Windows Gaming Desktop. On each I have set up restrictions around age, applications and store purchases, given him non-administration accounts, locked him into child friendly DNS, use Norton and Windows Family software and what not. I also keep a semi regular eye on what he is doing, reviewing his logs and history.

I must annoy him no end when I refuse to allow him to install lots of games his friends do – generally based on if they are too realistically gory or violent, or with concepts that are just too dark.

What I have done won’t protect him fully, but it helps, and it is why I’m aware of his interest in Reddit.

He loves gaming and wants to be a game developer after school. His wayward web searches have always been aboveboard, hunting down game and development tips and reviews and bug fixes. When blocked he knows just to move on and try the next link.

Some of my son’s peers have far more restricted access to the internet. One has an extremely technically minded father who has rewritten their modem’s firmware with all sorts of parental controls over access, times, length, sites visited and what not. A handful are simply not allowed to access the internet at all without their parent sitting with them.

The majority however – the vast, vast majority, have minimal or no restrictions or monitoring on their Internet use. In some cases, they have even circumvented the rudimentary controls that their non-technical parents had tried to implement, or have their older siblings do it for them.

I’m sure there are lots of healthy and useful areas in Reddit, but it really isn’t a platform I want my son to be familiar with at his age. The mind truly boggles at just what the majority of kids must be accessing on their devices, and from such a young age. My god that could mess up the minds of so many kids.

While I make an above average effort to protect my son, I don’t go to the extremes I am technically able to. I use it more as an opportunity to explain why some of the sites are blocked, and he uses it as a debating point on when or why he should have access. I hope the fact that it is something we openly communicate about helps him when he visits friends or sleeps over, and doesn’t have the same sorts of restrictions or protections in place.

Time Flies out the door

Aside a couple sessions working on T3 fittings, I’ve spent very little time playing EVE over the last few weeks. I have been reading about the current and approaching wars, but it all tends to come across as the same old story, just a different day. The style of propaganda probably doesn’t help much there. I think the August release is arriving today. I looked at the patch notes but not much stood out. There is a new event starting called Lucky Clash, a new Standings UI, and some updates to the map and scanning interfaces I’ll have to look at. One nice change is that scan results no longer clear on session changes.

I have been playing a bit of World of Warships, and try to fit in a couple battles each day. I actually feel like I am playing ok – not brilliantly, but regularly being in the top 3 or 4 experience earners in my team. This is not however reflected in my stats. My win rate for the last 3 months is sitting at around 40% from 215+ battles. I know it shouldn’t matter, but it does. It doesn’t make it a particularly satisfying game.

I am sailing a lot of Tier VII and VIII Cruisers at the moment, and often find myself bottom tier up against Tier IX and X ships. The Battleships just chew through you – the majority of your strikes just shatter, but every time one of their shells land, boom, 30 to 40% of your hits are gone. It only takes one or two salvos and you are out of the game. I say the same thing over and over – but it pretty much sums up my experience.

Recently I resorted to running a few Tier III/IV matches, up against a generally lower level of player. I am finding I am normally effective, sometimes enough to carry a match. It was a confidence boost I needed. The above battle was particularly memorable with the Murmansk captain well and truly outclassing everyone. I am pretty sure he came out with around half his hit points still. I did a lot of spotting and had many torpedo hits in that game – being untimely robbed of several kills. I cemented the win by soloing a Battleship parked in one of the Capture points, and then choosing not to engage the Murmansk and focus on ensuring a strategic point win. I have seen a lot of games lost by players focused just on drawing blood. It is an easily exploited tactic used in EVE.

I am still doing a DDO Session every week or so with friends. They use the one night I join them to do loot runs, primarily in EPIC level quests. They all have characters with many reincarnations and highly optimised set ups and equipment. They run these quests solo, and in groups they move mindlessly at breakneck speeds. There is no such thing as stopping to smell the roses. Often, I spend the entire session running to catch up, struggling to even just target opponents before they are swiftly killed by the others. It doesn’t tend to be fun. I had to put aside all but one of my highest-level characters as they just fell too far behind. I am down to just using my original Cleric now, and while I often pull my weight in the kill count, it is just a handful of crowd control tactics used over and over and over again. I just don’t have the time – or the inclination – to spend the months required to partially catch up. The reality is I should stop playing.

Speaking of stopping, I’ve pretty much stopped playing all my iPad games – with just the occasional glance at them with weeks or months between. Interesting how none of them have really been able to hold my interest like EVE had.

All told my gaming time has dropped by more than 50% over the last year. I should have a bit of spare time on my hands, maybe to tackle something new. Real life however energetically vacuums any of that time up. Mostly it sees me taxiing kids around to their silly number of activities and events. I am struggling a bit with the lack of escapist downtime.

I have written various more personal blog entries that I never posted. I might throw one or two of them up for the other middle-aged gamers with kids to nodded their heads at and mumble yep.

Proof Reading

While I make an effort with my writing here on the blog, I am not a natural wordsmith.

I have a very large document on my PC (290 pages / 72,510 words as of a minute ago) that contains all my blog notes.  There are post ideas, game play notes, rule change notes, and a very large number of draft posts, most of which won’t ever see the light of day.

I will often draft and redraft a post multiple times across a couple of days.  If it reaches a solid enough state I make an effort to finish it off.  When I am finally happy enough with it I will read it out aloud (or more often quietly under my breath) to try and pick up any last mistakes.  I will then cut and paste the entry into WordPress, where I will add any media, ensure the links are configured, and do one more read.  When happy with all that I will hit publish, then immediately read the uploaded post.  After, I remove the post from my document, and finally do one last check read when the post happens into my RSS Reader.

I don’t do this because I love to read what I write.  In part I take care because obvious spelling and grammatical mistakes distract from whatever message you are trying to convey.  In part it is because I take a bit of pride in my work.  In part it relates to those Anxieties I mentioned in my last post, not wanting to embarrass myself too much I guess.

Despite my care, I can not tell you how often I find obvious mistakes after I have published a post!  Tonight one of them was using the term peripherals instead of peripheries in the last post.

Some days however, I will see an obvious mistake after I have published a post and think – fuck it – the mistake stays.

I am not sure how many mistakes will be in this post – it went straight into WordPress.  To amuse myself I won’t correct any after I hit publish.

(Also, I won’t post any more today.. not sure what came over me.)

Maybe closer to the truth

I’ve sprained the posterior cruciate ligament in my knee. The damage was done while digging out Rose and Black Berry bushes on a steeply sloped garden last Friday. It is only mild, but warranted a visit to the doctor this morning.

While in the waiting room I read the news on my phone. At one point the harsh chorus of noise in the place got too distracting so I looked up. The ladies at the reception were talking, there was a TV on, a young child was watching an episode of Fireman Sam on an iPad at full volume, a bloke in his 20’s was watching what sounded like some comedy segment on his phone at noticeable volume, a grandfather was watching or listening to some Italian show on his phone, and the lady next to me was watching some Arabic video on her phone, tutting at the difficulty of hearing it, and repeatedly turning up the volume.

It was a perfect snapshot of the state of courtesy in our world.

I’m sure it wasn’t as bad as this 10 years ago. Maybe our youth with save us?

My kids attend Karate lessons once a week after school. The Instructors provide plenty of balls for them to play with between when school finishes and the class begins at 4pm. A bunch of kids have taken to kicking the balls against the walls immediately above where the parents sit. Invariably a miskicked ball will clock a parent or two in the face or knock a phone out of a hand each week. At best the child might give the parent an inane smile, but more often they just stare blankly then walk off. Two minutes later they are back doing it again.

The other night my wife and I heard strange rolling noises on our roof. I went outside and found two neighbouring kids under 12, standing in front of our house with a tennis racket. There were stones laying on the ground around the front of the house. When I asked them if they were hitting stones on to our roof I got blank stares and “no we didn’t” replies. I suggested stones seemed to be flying around by themselves, so they had better go home before they got hurt.

Every week I come across a dozen little moments like this. I’m starting to think EVE might not be quite the dystopian environment I thought it was. It might be a little too accurately representing the direction society is heading.

WoWS – Numbers

In a recent World of Warships battle I found myself on the wrong side of the numbers game. My spawn location dictated what capture point I moved towards in my battleship, and I was joined by only three others, a Destroyer, a Cruiser and another Battleship. The remaining eight ships in our fleet went to another capture point. As our enemy showed themselves it became apparent our squad of four would be up against eight, and our squad of eight would be up against four. This sort of split is common, as is my ability to be on the wrong side of the numbers. I resigned myself to an unpleasant early demise.

I didn’t pay much thought to the rest of the fleet, instead concentrating on my closest allies as we began a fairly hectic battle. Our enemy kept passing behind large islands which afforded us cover from their shells and meant our return fire tended to be more focused on those fewer ships in the open. When I took a breath and looked up from my gun sights, our squad had captured the point with the loss of the Destroyer and Cruiser, sunk six of the enemy, and forced the remaining two into retreat.

I had a momentary thought that the battle was in the bag when I stopped to wonder at the status bar across the top of the screen. Our second squad of eight was down to one, having only sunk one ship in return. Our three remaining ships – two badly damaged, were spread out. The enemies five ships were all together, steaming through the capture points, and focusing fire.

I still had my unpleasant demise, it just took longer than expected.

If not on the wrong side of the numbers, I keep finding my Tier VI and VII Cruisers are ending up bottom tier in most of their battles, up against Tier VIII and IX. In one battle my poor La Galissonniere landed 50 main shell hits with her 152mm guns, and did a grand total of just over 500 points damage. Yes – I changed targets, where I was aiming, and shell type, but everything shattered or bounced against the primarily Tier IX opponents. The ship was put out of its misery by just two shell strikes, taking off 90% of its hit points.

In another battle I was impressed to see half our fleet were in the same division and obviously knew each other. They then proceeded to yolo troll the chat channel, shoot each other down to 1/2 health, then suicided themselves into the enemy.

I am still intrigued by the game, but the reoccurring theme over and over is just how random the battles seem to work out. I am just as likely to come out of a battle with a win when I am ineffective and sunk within minutes, as I am to lose a battle when I play a (rare) faultless game and do everything right.  I assume it plays a little nicer if you are top tier.

Collecting

Iron Crown Enterprises (ICE) Middle Earth Role Playing game (MERP) was the very first commercial desktop RPG I played. It was licensed through Tolkien Enterprises and was based on The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I absolutely loved the campaign and adventure modules, and found most to be of high quality.

That was back more than 30 years ago – in my early years of High School. I hadn’t yet started earning money and my Dad hated the idea of the game, so unfortunately I was never able to buy many of the books.

We moved on to ICE’s Rolemaster and Terry Amthor’s Shadow World / Loremaster environment – another setting I loved. I was able to purchase most of these books over time, but the MERP gear was rarely available.

By the time I had gone through Uni, started my career and set up house with my now wife, ICE was headed into bankruptcy, had lost its Tolkien license and there were no more new books released.

I did buy all the Forgotten Realm Setting books for D&D 3.0 and 3.5 versions when they came out. I’ve rarely played games using them, but loved the format and quality of the books. They are easily good enough just to read for reading sake, and sit on my bookcase in great condition. I still regretted however not being able to collect the MERP books.

For the last five odd years I have taken to looking for the MERP books on Ebay. I have now picked up some 40 of the 100 odd products released, most in as new condition. I’ve paid less than $10 for some, more than $60 for others, but mostly between $20 and $40. I’ve seen some books go for more than $100, although they often get relisted again soon after as the more successful auctions don’t seem to go through reliably. It amazes me that you can receive in the mail a book that is 30 odd years old, yet in as new condition.

In the last year or so however nothing new seems to be put up for auction – aside the same old over priced items relisted month after month after month. There are more options overseas, but I’ve tended to stick to the Australian site. I take the approach that if I get lucky, all good – if not, never mind.

ehimg624

Part of the Collection

My history of role playing games certainly plays a big part in why I’ve liked and spent so long in EVE.  My experience with collecting MERP books also probably explains why I have purchased most of the books and what not related to EVE when they are released.