Friday, May 30, 2014

Watch Dogs and Wildstar

It's a pretty busy time for gaming with Watch Dogs being released and Wildstar's early access beginning today.  Usually, I would be pretty excited.  A lot of my Twitter and gamer friends are enjoying both games.  I normally can't resist the infectious nature of game enjoyment.  It turns out that I am immune this time and will not be hopping on board with either game.

Watch Dogs.  This game looks pretty awesome.  Big open world and hacking stuff to make cool things happen.  I should love this kind of game but it turns out I don't.  I've tried to get into Grand Theft Auto, Dead Rising and Saints Row but I only end up spending a few hours in them.  I'm not quite sure why it is, but this type of game just doesn't hold my interest.  Maybe it is the driving around... I do enough of that during the week. I don't know.

Wildfire.  Ah, new MMO's.  Is there a more fun time?  I played Wildstar in early beta and it just never hooked me.  I'm not particular interested in the setting or IP.  None of the features really make the game stand out to me, except housing.  It is very quest/dungeon focused, which I already get in other games.   The action combat is not my favorite either.  

That's not to say it isn't a quality experience.  I was quite impressed at the level of polish I saw in the game.  I know a bunch of people working on it so I really hope it succeeds.   

It feels strange to be sitting on the sidelines while people enjoy these two games.  I just can't fool myself into thinking I'll play them for any decent length of time.  Now that I think about it, I can't think of any new game that I am looking forward to.  Except for Project Venice of course :)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Project Venice: A Home

Since I am taking a whole new approach with this game, it requires a new home.  I want to avoid getting limited by quotas this time around too.  There are a lot of solutions, like Amazon's EC2 and Heroku plus a myriad of other cloud products.  I've decided that this project will have a budget, so paying for hosting is doable.  This post will be down in the weeds :)

After looking around, I have settled on Digital Ocean.  I did this for a few reasons.  

$5 a month.  Their most basic plan is pretty affordable.  It should be more than enough for a prototype.  Plus, if you google it, you can find promo codes for $10 in credit.  So I'll actually have 2 free months to play around with it.

SSD Drives.  I probably don't need SSD storage,  but who can say no to that?

MEAN Stack.  They offer 'droplets' with the MEAN Stack built in.  That means less setup for me.

Signing up was very simple.  Although, I still needed to enter payment information and pay $5 despite my $10 credit.  That gives me 3 months worth for $5, which is still pretty good.  

I chose the smallest instance, which gives 512MB/1 CPU/20GB SSD/1TB Transfer.  After choosing an image with MEAN on it, I was all setup.  Using SSH I logged into the server and proceeded to update the server using 'apt-get update && apt-get upgrade && apt-get dist-upgrade.'  I really hope I need to upgrade to more a expensive plan someday, that would mean it is being played. 

The image comes with a MEAN website all setup, so I rm -rf'd it and decided to start from scratch.  I used the following command to set it up again.

mean init venice
cd venice && npm install

This started up the webserver on port 3000.  However, it threw an error when I connected to it:  Error: ENOENT, open '/opt/mean/venice/public/system/lib/bootstrap/dist/css/bootstrap.css'

To solve this, we need to install bootstrap-css:  bower install bootstrap-css

This command also throws an error:  "bower ESUDO         Cannot be run with sudo".  Since we are running as root in our image, we need to do:  bower --allow-root install bootstrap-css

Now we run grunt again and connect to the site, success!  

However, this still leaves us with quite a robust install.  I really want to start with nothing and build it up so I wiped it again.  Then I found this resource:  After following those instructions I was left with a very simple install which is much more understandable.

Finally, I setup the firewall for my new system.  I found a great guide about how to do it.

You can check out the new site at:

Next up, getting a login system working.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Comfort Zone

I am very attached to my routines and comfort zones.  It's probably one of my biggest flaws.  It's something I have been actively working at in my offline life, so I figure it is something I should also work at online.  Project Venice is a part of this effort.  It uses a number of technologies which I have no experience in.  As I researched them, I definitely felt some creeping anxiety.

MongoDB.  No SQL here, or Google's datastore which I have grown used to.  This is pretty simple though, so I'm not really worried.

AngularJS.  I'm so used to using JQuery, well no more of that.  This is a new framework which I will have to learn.

ExpressJS.  This is a web application framework, of which I have no experience.  The documentation scares me a little.

NodeJS.  I've gotten very used to using Python and App Engine's way of doing things.  The asynchronous nature of Node has me very nervous.  I'll need to change my way of thinking.  

Jade.  I usually write my HTML by hand.  Jade is a templating language which is supposed to make things easier.  It means I'll have to learn a new syntax.

All of these things are new to me.  I find myself thinking, "maybe I should just do this the old way."  No!  I must keep on the path, no matter how uncomfortable I may be at the moment. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Starbases and Research in Ascent

One of the first things you can do in Ascent is purchase your very own starbase.  It is surprisingly affordable, only costing 10,000 credits.  You pick up the deed for one on SS Plato in the Apollo system using the contracts board.  Once purchased, you'll have a new autopilot option to go to Deep Space.  

So what is a starbase for?  The basic idea behind it is that you build starbase rings and place modules on them, 6 per ring.  You can have a maximum of 100 rings!  Although, you'll need to upgrade to Premium in order to build that many.  More on that in a later post though.  On a starbase you can build things like ships, modules and some materials. 

My initial goal with the starbase is to produce a Class 2 Mining Beam.   My current ship came with a Class 1, so moving up a class will help improve my mining yields.  Before I can manufacture the beam I need to conduct some research.  So my first starbase module is the Research Lab.  You can find the blueprint for the lab on a Contracts board.  You'll need Electronics and Mechanical Parts in order to build the lab.  You can purchase these off of the Galactic Market.

Building a Research Lab works just like it did for the Grain Farm.  You place the module, then give it the raw materials.  Once it has the materials, it took close to a day to complete.  Now that I have a lab, I need a blueprint for the Mining Beam.  First, I need to acquire the blueprint for a Class 1 Mining Beam, then research it to Class 2.

To obtain the blueprint for a Class 1 beam you'll need to participate in some combat.  Head over to Janus A, and do the first 2 combat missions.  Once those are complete, you'll have new contracts available which allow you to purchase a number of blueprints.  Now we should be able to Up Class our Class 1 Blueprint to Class 2. 

It'll take a couple of days for the research to complete.  I also need to build a Shipyard in order to manufacture ship modules.  That sounds like a good idea for my next post!

Friday, May 23, 2014

ESO Update

I managed to log into ESO a few times this week, but did not really accomplish anything.  I advanced a couple of quests, but that's about it. I'm just not in any rush to advance, which is odd.  During beta, I really wanted to get to level 10 so I could PvP.  I enjoyed it quite a bit too, but lately I just have not had that motivation.

The Craglorn update is out this week too.  As I've written before, there is nothing for me in there.  It looks really cool though, as the zone is packed with stuff to do.  Hopefully the Trials give something for people to chew on for a while.  I'm pretty sure I'll never step foot in them though.

I also read that the next update will include a new Veteran Dungeon.  The details are pretty sparse, but that is pretty unexciting for me.  Hopefully they throw in something for us solo folks.  I know, I have a ton of content ahead of me still :)

If you want to check out what Craglorn has to offer, Dulfy has a great guide.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Project Venice

If you have been a reader of this blog for a while you probably know that I like to work on programming projects.  Sites with Benefits ( formerly Project Murdock ) was my last project and it is in a pretty good spot.  So I've been looking for something new to work on.  Inspired by my playing of Ascent, I want to revisit some game ideas I have had over the years and try to put together a prototype.

As it is not worthy of a real name yet, it will be called Project Venice.  The game itself would be a different take on the space trading genre.  Instead of taking the role of the pilot hauling cargo, you'll be in management.  Let's face it, hauling cargo is tedious.  The real fun comes in the decision making and trade route discovery.  Those are the aspects I want to concentrate on.

Another purpose of this project is for me to learn something new.  Instead of using Google's App Engine (like I do for everything)  I am going to switch things up.  Right now, the plan is to use a MEAN Stack and a hosted service provider.  It's not free, but cheap enough to make it worthwhile.  MEAN stands for MongoDB, Express.js, Angular.js, Node.js.  I have not used any of them before, other than a little project with MongoDB.

I plan on this being a series of blog posts, many technical, about the development of the game.  I don't expect to get to the fun stuff for a while though as there is much setup to be done first.  Determining a hosting provider is my next task.  

Monday, May 19, 2014

Mining in Ascent

Another one of the activities in the space MMO, Ascent, is to mine asteroids.  You can get all sorts of minerals through mining, as each type of asteroid has a different makeup.  Currently, only two systems in Ascent have asteroids:  Vulcan and Veritas.  For my first foray into mining I went to Vulcan and found quite a large asteroid field.

Not all of the asteroids are able to be mined though, just the ones with a name.  Thankfully,  collision is not enabled on the non-mineable asteroids either.  That would make it quite a dangerous activity.  The first step in mining is getting up close and personal with your asteroid.  You need to be within 1km in order for your mining laser to activate.  I've noticed the hit box for the asteroids can be a little strange sometimes, so you may have to start the laser off of the asteroid. 

There is an art to mining an asteroid.  In addition to keeping up with moving asteroids, you have to pay attention while mining. You need to watch for the color of it to change while you are using your beam on it.  Once it does, you stop the beam and the asteroid implodes.  If you have the beam on it for too long, you will just destroy it and not get any minerals.

There are a couple of ways to improve the yield you get while mining.  First, you can improve your skill value just by mining.  Secondly, you can buy a better mining laser.  These are made by players and can be bought off of the Galactic Market.

Ok, you have a cargo hold full of minerals, now what?  The easiest way to cash them in is to sell them to the NPC local market.  This is not an option for all of the minerals, like Niobium.  So for those you can either sell them to NPC contracts, or sell them to your fellow players.  The most profitable route is usually sell them to other players via the Global Market.  You can make some nice money on Tin and Niobium that way.

Mining can be a lucrative way to earn credits in Ascent.  I'm not sure it is something I will do often, as it isn't the most exciting of activities.  Trading is a bit easier to do in my opinion.  Sure, it isn't exciting either but requires less aiming and maneuvering. :)

Friday, May 16, 2014

Gaming Update

It's been a long time since I've really provided an update on my gaming actives.  I know you have all been wondering, so here goes.  Overall,  my gaming time has shrunk considerably.  The primary reasons are work and family.  I just don't have the energy to play much during the week.  I do still play on the weekends though.

SWTOR.  I am still subscribed to SWTOR, although I don't really play.  I guess their subscription lures work, as I stay subscribed.  I really want the free rooms for my Nar Shadaa house.  Those suckers are expensive credit wise.  Otherwise, nothing BioWare has done really interests me.  I'll check out housing, which may decide the future of my subscription.

ESO.  I'm still actively playing ESO, although infrequently.  I just have not been in the mood for a 'heavy' game lately.  I often think of playing ESO while I am work, but when I get home I have lost that motivation.  The obvious solution is to retire so I can focus on gaming. 

Ascent.  I've spent the most time playing this free game.  My trading activities don't require much in the way of brain power so it has been easier to pick up and play.   I'm still exploring the games systems, and asteroid mining is next up on my list to do.  

Nothing much coming up on the horizon either.  That's fine though, I have plenty to do.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Shards Online Kickstarter

Shards Online is not your everyday MMO.  It emphasis player made sandbox content to an extreme extent.  That doesn't mean this is just a 'roll your own MMO' toolkit, there will be official 'shards' too.  However, players can opt run their own shard too.   They can base if off of the official shards with different rules, or go in to a lot of customization with the tools and scripting language.

The game has been in development for a a while now and the developers have decided to run a Kickstarter campaign.  They've opted to go this route so they can avoid the pressures of outside investors.  It's nice to see they are asking for a relatively modest sum of 320k.  With that goal, they are likely to succeed.  Plus, they pull out some Office Space in their video.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Running the Numbers

I am now the proud owner of a Grain Farm in Ascent.  It produces grain at the rate of 207 per day.  So what does that really mean for me financially?  In the Ceres system, grain can be bought for 100 credits per ton.  This is low as the system produces grain.  But, it also means I don't have to travel to other systems.

My ship can only hold 40 tons of cargo, so that means each ship load of grain will net me 4,000 credits.   I have seen grain prices up at 130 in the Vulcan system, so if I make that trip it'll get me 5,300 credits per ship load, but it involves using the jump gate.

I can also make money by trading.  My favorite route is trading Aluminium and Carbon between Vestra and Sol Invictus. Sol sells Carbon for 1,100 and Vestra buys it, at the time of this writing, for 1,419.  That's 12,760 per ship load.  It does require a jump gate, but that is a pretty sweet deal.

Right now, it makes more sense to be trading rather than selling grain from my farm.  I've heard mining can be quite lucrative, so I will be exploring that aspect of the game soon.  For now, I will continue my quest for more cargo space and my eventual Hyperdrive.

Friday, May 9, 2014

New Webpage

I am many things, some good and most bad.  One thing that is fimly in the bad column is any kind of design work.  I am much more of a functional person in all aspects of my life.  I have no style to speak of.  Enter Sites with Benefits.  It's a fun project, one that could be useful to a lot of people.  But, you need to get past my poor web development skills to see that.

So I decided to have a professional type redo the website.  You can check it out below.  I think it is a big improvement as it makes it look like a real site, not just a side project of a programmer.

As always, let me know if you want to use SwB.  It's free and I can walk you through using it.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Building in Ascent

Last week, I covered the basics of trading in Ascent.  Through trading, I upgraded my ship to a Unicorn and built up a nice reserve of around 200,000 credits.  One of the tutorial rewards was a deed on the planet Ceres and a Grain Farm blueprint.  As you might suspect, this lets me build a Gain Farm and produce grain.  In the starter systems, each planet only produces a single kind of good i.e. Grain. regular planets do not have this restriction.  It's time I take a break from trading and start to be a producer.

Building in the starter Apollo (starter) systems is different than the rest of the 270 billion star systems.  You don't really explore the planets yet, instead you are given a section to build on.   Once you get a deed, you get a 6 x 5 grid, for a total of 30 plots on the planet.  

After you find a nice spot for the farm, you can place it.  The blueprint is not used up, so you can keep on building so long as you have the raw materials.  To give the structure the materials it needs to be built, just double click on it.  If you have the supplies in your cargo hold, they will be applied to the construction site.  Now that I've started my structure, I need to go around to different systems and gather the needed raw materials.  You can drop materials off, so you don't need to carry them all at once.

For a listing of building materials and some grid setups, check out this wiki entry.

Once all materials are there, it starts to build.  In the case of my Grain Farm, it takes about 22 hours to construct.  Once operational, the Grain Farm can hold 260 tons of grain.  I'm a slacker, so I may not be getting to my farm before it overflows and no one wants to waste food.  Luckily, there is a solution to that problem.  Warehouses let you store up to 10,000 tons of goods.   To get the goods to the warehouse, you'll need to setup some Transport Grid nodes.  These nodes connect everything you build, so planning is an important part of building.

I went looking at each station's contracts and eventually found blueprints for the Warehouse and the Transport Grid.  I then built a Warehouse and two Transport Grids to connect it to the Grain Farm.  The Warehouse takes roughly 11 hours to build, and the Transports take 30 minutes.  Total cost of this project has been 88,000 credits.

Monday, May 5, 2014

End Game Worries

I am still enjoying my time in ESO despite the lack of time to actually play it lately.  Other commitments have conspired against me.  I'm still only level 8 and not even to my Daggerfall main city yet.  At this rate I'll reach 50 sometime next year, maybe.  Even though the end game is far away, I can't help be worried about what Zenimax has planned.

Craglorn is a rather large content patch coming soon to ESO.  It is all about groups, which is fine.  I am a bit disappointed, as a solo player, that a new zone is being introduced which I can't enjoy at my own pace.  The world building in this game is amazing, so I really feel like I will be missing out. 

We now have precedent for the kind of content Zenimax will make for groups: zones, dungeons, trials.  I really want to see what they will do for solo type players.  Right now, the end game content for us is to do the other alliances quests.  I'm not sure I like the idea of this.  I try to identify with my character and it seems jarring that he'd suddenly be doing stuff with the other alliances.  I'd much rather roll an alt and explore the content that way.

I had the same concerns about solo content additions with SWTOR.  Would BioWare be able to add quality story based content at regular intervals to their non-group players?  I think the answer to this has been no, they can not.  Makeb was a full blown expansion, not regular content.  It's not surprising though, the cost of creating high-quality content is high in terms of voice acting and other production values.  ESO also uses a lot of voice acting, will this limit them in the same way it does in SWTOR?