2020 – From my perspective

Really, 2020 has been an unforgettable year. Tragedy for so many and upheaval around the globe. For Australia it started with the ongoing bushfires, and then just as things were getting back to normal, the COVID crisis hit, upending everything for pretty much everyone.

I am certain that I will cop some flak for this, but to be honest for me, and I mean just me, it was actually a good year.

Professionally I had two unexpected opportunities to demonstrate my abilities and I am satisfied that I did good work. Supporting the Bushfires response and then the COVID response I got great feedback. From the bushfires, one of the executives I was working for wrote an appreciative letter to my own exec. Big plus there, though it won’t mean a promotion or a raise though. It did feel good to be appreciated in that way.

This fire broke out very close to home.

For my new profession, teaching, I graduated at the start of the year with my paperwork finally arriving in March. My accreditation with NSW was also completed and I started actually working, as a casual, one day per week for Term 4. It was great to start, and I have a lot to learn, but I also discovered that there is work there, and I am in demand. That’s again a positive for the future. Oh, and I confirmed that I enjoy it and would love to have my own classroom.

Effect of COVID

Look, my family was kind of insulated from the upheavals. My wife’s profession and mine were both required to work throughout and there was never any threat to our employment. My daughters’ schools did close for a term, but we managed their online access. Being tech savvy and having several computers and iPads, but most importantly a reliable internet connection, meant that schooling online wasn’t an issue. After being released from the COVID taskforce after a couple of months, I did do some random periods of working from home as well, and I love it. From that perspective it proved to my entire organisation that working from home, or remotely are viable depending upon your particular role.

COVID initially made the traffic very light when commuting.

None of our extended families have so far caught COVID, and most live in small rural areas, so not high risk anyway. And work wise, many of them are retired, or in school or continued to work pretty much as normal. Again, this has lessened the impact on us. I don’t know anyone personally who has had COVID.

I am very thankful for the particular circumstances that my extended family found itself in during COVID.

We did cancel a planned holiday to Hawaii. I didn’t mind. I wasn’t really wanting to go at that particular time and it was going to be a hassle with eldest’s school too. We got about 95% of our money back as well, which helped. And our planned Christmas in Philippines was not even considered. We did take a few days down the far south NSW coast, consciously staying within the state, just in case.

Bikes

Well, the first comment is not really me, but the MotoGP has been a stellar year with all sorts of things happening. Jack Miller (#43) kept me on the edge of my seat in several races. To finish with a second place in the last race and hand Ducati the constructor title was an awesome way to step across to the factory team. Outside of Jack, there was some amazing racing and epic moments.

I was a little sad when the Australian round was cancelled. I had not planned to attend this year and if it hadn’t been cancelled back in Feb (I think) it certainly would have later. However, my Mrs is happy for me to attend next year. And I have a bike that I will enjoy even more riding down there and back. I have been busy looking at different routes there and back.

And they call it a “work trip”…..

Bike wise, I got several “work trips” in and some other minor rides about the place to break up the commute. Even the commute was broken up with a total of about 4 months of commuting to the city. I do enjoy filtering past all those cars…

Filtering…. see ya suckers 🙂

The bike is running well and I have done little things to fix it up. Replacing the broken fairing piece and sorting out the OEM tail to properly mount the Givi rack were little niggles of mine. I’d still love another 50-100km from the tank, but that’s not too much drama. I don’t really have any other “jobs” left to do on it now. It’s now in better shape than when I got it, 30,000km ago.

Of course, I did miss out on getting a new one. It’s still a goal of mine, but I think it might be 2022 perhaps.

Bytes

Not a lot happened in this arena. I picked up a Surface Pro, to use for teaching of course. First laptop in a long time and first new Windows hardware in 10 years! It worked out well for a couple of teaching days already.

No, this isn’t moving away from the Apple ecosystem, but until they make a MacBook with a touch screen/pen input, I don’t see the point. Admittedly the changes they have made to iPadOS have made it significantly more useable for a work/study environment.

Sure, part of the decision to get a Surface Pro is the “new toy” in lieu of the new bike 🙂

Dungeons and Dragons went from strength to strength this year. I DM’d a regular group online and they worked they way through the Icespire Peak/Leilon modules. A (mostly) regular Friday evening group stood up as well, with different people running it and different adventures. I’ve ended up DM’ing some of those Fridays as well, kicking off an adventure based around Saltmarsh which is proving entertaining. All online through Roll20.

That has been a lot of fun, made some new friends and got back into one of my hobbies. It even saw me complete a heap of painting of miniatures too. This young green dragon came out well (mini is about 12cm wingtip-wingtip).

So I do extend my sympathies to those who have lost family or friends or who’ve had work upheavals, lost home or businesses. That’s why its with some awkwardness, I have to say that for me, 2020 was actually a good year.

Let’s hope 2021 is better for all!

A Survivor is Born…..again

Again.

Well that went a lot faster. I’ve finished TR again. I am sure there is one main thing that improved my performance this time. It is MUCH easier to fight with mouse and keyboard than the PS Controller. This made aiming easier even when compared to the auto-aim on the PS version.

Finding a body with a sword in a place full of “scary magic”, pulling the sword out is NOT something that I would have thought to do…. too likely to ‘wake’ him up again! Still it didn’t turn out bad. This time.

I enjoyed the story and I think this time I was happy with the less Tomb Raider and more hunter-killer story. Partly again, it was that my expectations were better aligned with reality and I could see how it fit with the story.

This penultimate fight was tough, the warriors you faced were tougher than the crazies you normally faced. But being careful about not biting off the whole thing at once, it is manageable.

I even completed it with 90% of the things to find done. I think this directly contributed to finding the battles easier. My weapons have a lot of upgrades and I had a lot of skills completed. I have no idea how much I was upgraded in the last game, but I’m sure it was significantly less. Even completed several of the extra tombs this time too. One of them, I didn’t even realise was a tomb until I got to the treasure at the end (It was inside the Research Base).

The big guy goes down. Easier aiming, better weapons and a better understanding of dodge attacks and weak points meant an easier kill than last time. Still a challenge though and he hits HARD.
Mattias is beaten!
The Storm Queen is about to be released from her torment.
Here comes the sun….

So on to the next TR? Haven’t picked it up yet, I’ll have to see if its on sale.

Because the adventure is just starting.

Tomb Raider (2013) Mac

I’ve restarted TR (2013), this time on the iMac. My first impression is that aiming is SOOOOO much easier. The AI is pretty competent too.

And that is making the game a mile more playable for me. I’ve been working through the story, but this time, collecting stuff as I go, building her skills and the like. So even though I am not as far through the story yet, I have a lot more of her skills complete, my weapons are well upgraded and I’ve found a lot of the “extras”.

I’ve found a couple of side Tombs as well, though not yet completed any. I think I know how to do one, but haven’t actually succeeded yet. Perhaps tonight.

Visually its very good.

So I’m enjoying the game and look forward to getting through it. There is a lot more story than I just remember. And I have to say, I appreciate the story much more this time.

I’ve also discovered, that while I knew there was a sequel, I didn’t realise that there were TWO sequels. I’ll have to keep an eye out in Steam Sales.

Occasionally there have been a few bugs. A floating bow and a floating torch have been the most visual.

The bow is just hanging there.
and the torch

Review – Minecraft Dungeons (Switch)

It’s the 26 May. That was the release date on the website, on all the advertising. And we still waited.

And waited….

We’d been waiting for a couple of months. We’re not massive Minecraft players in our house, especially since the girls moved to Roblox. But we all thought that this looked interesting.

But it wasn’t until 11pm on the 26th that you could actually download it. So I had a little play around midnight before bed. I played a little more the next night, before revealing its existence to the girls.

So we’ve all had a go now. Miss 12 is the furthest through, almost finished the first run through. Miss 10 is having a go as I type. Miss 12 and I had a 2-up game as well.

It’s quite fun, not massively difficult and very Minecraft themed, without ANY building. None at all.

I did read it described as Diablo crossed with Minecraft. And the total of 20 minutes of Diablo I’ve played, that seems a fair assessment. It has the same 3rd person iso view and you basically run about killing Minecraft mobs in a Minecraft themed world.

Chaos ensues.

This isn’t a disappointment to be honest. I wanted something the girls might enjoy – I’m struggling through Witcher III on the Switch as a my penance (I’ve not played it before on any system). And wanted something I could have fun with, or we could all play together. And that’s what we’ve got.

The base camp you return to. Here you can purchase equipment and select missions. Also there are target dummies.

There isn’t any building – that’s probably the surprise. There are drops of equipment that you can upgrade yours with (very World of Warcraft, or very anything really). You can enchant this equipment which gives it bonuses and allows some customisation, giving your gear extra powers. In groups, some of the gear drops are tagged to a particular player to make sure its more fair.

It’s generous with health, giving you a recharging healing potion, and 3 lives. When in a party, a dead member can be revived by another player without subtracting from these lives. This makes it more playable for the younger ones but even then you can be overwhelmed, even in a party.

I did read in one review that they were happily introducing their kids to terms like kiting that many of us in MMOs and such are well familiar with. I’ve noticed me doing that as well. Or sometimes we’ll split into ranged and melee.

Tips so far

  • You can’t pause, and you can still be attacked when accessing your inventory, but also the game menu if you are on a mission!
  • When a player is revived by another player they have almost no health so HEAL UP straightaway!
  • When you create guest characters in a person’s game, they are still there all levelled and geared up next time you join in.

DnD: Session 2 is coming

That first session went really well. My new group of victims players turned up, so we had a full party. I’ll attach a fantastic write up that one of them did for your entertainment.

I thought my DMing went pretty well. I dropped them straight in where the last group left (though the write up starts from the very beginning) and away we went. There is a lot to learn, but I am still most decidedly a beginner, but having players familiar with the game meant that I had to accept their word on their abilities and actions a lot. However, I seem to be able to trust them. For a couple of them, I think they are definitely enjoying the opportunity to be players again, to “take a break” from being the DM.

One wasn’t familiar with the Roll20 system, but we seemed to get it going no worries. One of the previous group has let us keep using their discord server so that was nice.

After a couple of hours we finished up and all agreed to return for this second session. That was my first success!

This part is a bit more, free choice, as they are in a village without a particular goal and not crawling about in a dungeon. I think it will be a good test of whether I can cope with the random directions that they choose.

So enjoy the write up, and I’ll hopefully have another for you in a week or so.

DnD: There’s no TIME!

I’ve kicked off this DM caper and it was pretty much going ok. I didn’t feel like the guys were bored and the other new folk were keeping up. There were some technical difficulties experienced in the Roll20 space – mostly our voice comms were a bit iffy. One of the guys had a discord server, so we jumped onto that and away we went.

We managed have managed two sessions since then. Initially weekly, it dropped to fortnightly and I had different people each one. Then all except one admitted they really couldn’t make the timings so we were about to close it all up.

This is disappointing to me as I really want to play and I’ve decided to DM as it seems like its a good way to actually get a game going (people are more likely to say they’ll play if they don’t have to DM). I know part of the reason is the really awkward time – Sunday morning. This is a really odd time to play, but I really don’t have any choice – the rest of my (life) weekend is all pretty full. I even went as far as making a diagram to see if there was another time I could play.

And there is – 11pm to 1am or so… that time’s free every night….

So as we were about to close up the game, I put a last invitation up on the work boards.

I was amazed when we got about 4 new players. These are experienced guys so it will be interesting to DM them. At least two of them regularly DM, so are looking for a break and just be a player. Next game is next week and so I will see how it goes.

At this stage I’m just going to drop them into where the story was up to. I’ll have a chat with them and see if they are interested in resetting it.

I’m also hoping they might offer suggestion on any of the published modules that they might be interested in. I’m really keen to buy one and can’t decide which. I’m hoping this group stays together and I can run them through something. As I keep reading reviews and such my choice keep changing, but at the moment I am thinking one of these:

  • Out of the Abyss
  • Curse of Strahd
  • Princes of the Apocalypse
  • Tales of the Yawning Portal

Me, Dungeon Master???

About two months ago, I briefly joined in a couple of rounds with a nearby D&D group before it was clear that the timings weren’t going to work for me. This was 5e, and I hadn’t played since 1e when I was in high school (I’ll let you work out how many decades ago that was), so long ago that when I brushed aside the cobwebs the notes had wasted away to nothing anyway. I still have a 1988 printed PHB on the shelf (rats just gave away the answer).

Enthused, but not sure what to do, I asked around across the work network and found a half dozen of us who were all keen to play, mostly all new. So in a fit of altruism, and in order to get the idea moving I volunteered to DM.

Which I haven’t done for that same number of decades… and maybe only once then too.

Being geographically disparate we decided to use Roll20 website to run the game. This gives us an online game board to draw and create on, while providing automated character sheets and a host of other tools to use. It also has audio and video.

We’ve had two sessions so far. I hope its been enjoyable. Its a steep learning curve for me as I try to learn all of the players abilities and manage the game, while we all learn Roll20 and its capabilities. Each session has left me with some homework on things to study and read up on. I also try to make sure that I am reading ahead and preparing so that the short 2 hours that we have is of maximum benefit.

But both sessions have included new people joining, so there’s the inevitable period of setting up characters, things not working and the learning we are all doing about both D&D and Roll20. A couple more sessions and I’m sure we’ll be in the swing of it.

I’m running the group through a module called “Lost Mines of Phandelver”, which was included in the D&D Starter Set. It’s designed for new players (and DMs) so a good start for us.

There is also a host of resources online (which didn’t exist when I started, heck online barely existed when I started). Youtube videos that explain rules more clearly, tips and tricks – both generic and specific to the Lost Mines. The official D&D website and the Roll20 wiki have a heap of stuff as well. I had already picked up the Starter Set a year or more back when the Mini Mabs showed some interest and just before the foray into the other group I picked up the D&D box set with PHB, DM guide & screen and MM. So plenty of references.

I am enjoying it, the group is settling in together. I’d like to see it continue, I’d also like to rotate through as a player, but I’d rather keep the group than force the issue. Because I do enjoy the DMing as well. If it does continue, I’d like to get the Storm King’s Thunder as that looks pretty interesting. Maybe keep the same characters or let them restart…. I think that is some time away as there are at least 3 out of 4 chapters to complete in this one first.

Triple crown….

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Portal 2 completed.

Three games in one year I’ve finished now. And one of them I only started this year! (The three are Tomb Raider, Walking Dead and Portal 2, Portal 2 being the one I only started this year).

The last chapter and finale levels had a couple of curly puzzles in them. I admit to resorting to the INTERNET on a couple of occasions. But it was certainly a fun jaunt and some cool puzzles. I might go back and play the first one, but that would mean adding another game to the cupboard.

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I highly recommend Portal 2 if you haven’t tried it. A great game to while away those server shutdowns and the like with some brain teasers.

But what’s next….

Looking into the Steam Library I see some Assassin’s Creed, Batman: Arkham City (not sure why I bought that, I have it on the PS3 as well) and Trine 2. Or otherwise there is WoW, Eve or Mechwarrior???

Maybe its time for that PC now?

 

Portal Progress

2014-08-04_00001I’d become bogged down a bit in Portal. A couple of real puzzlers had me taking a long time to get just a little bit through the game. In the end I needed a little prompt from YouTube, which was disappointing.

However the trials are easy again. I seem to be getting close to the finish, I’m in Chapter 8: The Itch. I’m out of the old testing area and back into the original one. Here the crazy AI that I helped at the start (before he through me down the hole) is in charge. Testing me.

They’ve turned easy actually, even with the new twists created by the tractor beam type thing.

Oh Cross Platform

So I’ve been playing Portal 2 during the last few weeks at Canberra where I play on my iMac. When I go home to Sydney to see my family I don’t usually play anything as it takes away time from my family. I only get two nights at home and I don’t want to waste it.

However this past Saturday I found myself with the chores done and the kids engrossed in a video (and amazingly it wasn’t Frozen!) so I downloaded Portal onto the PC at home. I knew it was a cross platform purchase so I figured Icould muck about in it.

What I didn’t expect was to be able to continue from where I left off last week in Canberra on the Mac! Now that is cool. And a surprise because I had tried that with something else and it didn’t work that way (oh that’s right it was Borderlands 2).

Of course I only got through one room after spending an hour waiting for it to download, before the kids came wandering in having finished the movie

And here’s another cool thing. It’s a great clean non(ish) violent puzzle game. So we puzzled our way about in the next room without much success.